Origin of ‘how might we?’

In an interview (Full version below) with Gregg Fraley, Dr. Min Basadur discussed the origin of the phrase ‘how might we?’ and provided insight on structured creative problem solving.

In 1971 Min had the opportunity and privilege to attend the Creative Problem Solving Institute, headed by Sid Parnes and Alex Osborn. Sid had a process for handling problems, one in which he would ask a series of questions to find what the problem actually was. Min took that process back to Procter and Gamble and applied what he learned. He soon realized that many very smart people didn’t know how to define their problems properly; he saw this as a chance to innovate and impart change.

Min developed an eight-step process attuned to the business industry. ‘How might we?’ became his coined phrase that challenged employees to find the right problems instead using misdirected solutions. Min realized that the trick to problem definition was taking a negative and turning it into a positive. If used properly, anyone can benefit and ultimately innovate.


  • someone must take ownership/responsibility
  • look for a problem that people or customers have
  • fact find, divergent thinking
  • defer judgment
  • action must take place
  • take negatives and turn them into positive questions

The root of the issue within many organizations is that people are so busy competing with one another and do not share their ideas or problems. To address this, Min developed challenge mapping. This crucial step in the process must involve the right people, people who want change and are willing to induce it. Min also realized that everyone has a different problem-solving style, and by utilizing every strength, more divergent thinking and problem finding will occur. With the right dynamic, challenge mapping creates a collage and proper problem definition. Find out who will be impacted by the solution and be sure they have a seat at the table.

Ultimately it all starts with a fearless leader who is willing to take responsibility. Once there is ownership, the following suggestions can help in taking the first steps when faced with a seemingly unsolvable problem.

  • need training in creative process
  • include people it affects
  • be engaged
  • take ownership
  • use the process

Please enjoy the full interview below.