In What Ways Might I...

da vinci idea generation innovation no bad ideas thinking Dec 03, 2021

Here's a fantastic tool to broaden your thinking and come up with fresh ideas, for the title of a book or perhaps a new chapter you're working on. It is a methodology I first bumped in some 30 years ago and I still use it today!

In What Ways Might I…” (IWWMI) is a powerful way to frame your problem statement, to prompt great responses. The thinking behind it, is that this is not only a cue to say “problem statement coming up…” but it is a constant reminder at the top of your page, that “there is more than one solution here!

Think about it: If you had said: “How can I..?”, the answer to the question may be a simple phrase or just one word and that would be the end of it. The mind shuts down or moves on, once it answered a question.

The bigger picture behind Idea Generation, is to come up with great volumes of possible solutions - so that you can cherry pick the right one.


Recently I facilitated a fun session with a group of people who wanted to test my invention, The Ideas Game. I came to realise again how important it is that we understand our problem statement clearly.

One of the members in the team chose “IWWMI stop drinking?” as a topic for his game. Now it seems simple enough as a statement. It is short, it is direct and perfectly comprehensible. Yet this turned out to be the most complex problem around the table, until a Change Card cued us to rephrase the problem.

In truth I think we didn’t interrogate the problem properly at the outset and “stop drinking” was still too broad as a statement. Because you can break this down as the effect of a whole lot of other symptoms or causes:

  • Nothing better to do/Bored,
  • Peer pressure/Bad influences,
  • No direction/Focus over weekends, and so on.

These explorations may have led us to phrase the problem differently:

  1. IWWMI explore alternative pass-times?
  2. IWWMI share different experiences with friends?
  3. IWWMI find a weekend hobby?

The range of areas where we can probe for solutions to these aspects of the bigger problem, are now already away from the broad net, which “stop drinking” would cast. And this may make it easier to generate scores of fresh ideas under each of these sub-directions, giving us better solutions in the end.

I didn’t set out to post anything this morning, but the thought came to me early and so I didn’t want to let it slip away silently. Happy Weekend!

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