Since the term “How Might We?” has been in the news so much recently we thought this might be a good moment to repost a small portion of an earlier article from our Lost Innovation Stories series that was published here on February 21, 2012.
In that tribute to the early work of Sidney J. Parnes Ph.D. we made reference to and gave due credit to the appearance of the term “How Might We” in Parnes’s 1967 book entitled Creative Behavior Guidebook. We consider that book to be among the top ten most important early books on the subject of Applied Creativity. Lets give credit where credit is due.
Many have since built on Sidney’s work. The good news is that much of what Parnes created and shared early on has long since passed into the public domain.
We consider Sidney Parnes to be one of several unsung pioneers in the still evolving OPEN Innovation movement. The truth is, that movement has its roots in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, rather than in 2003.
“Invitation Stems (“How Mights”)
The introduction of what are known as invitation stems, sometimes referred to as “How Mights,” are among the important tactical instruments included by Parnes in his Creative Behavior Guidebook published in 1967. Invitation stems became important, fundamental building blocks in the still-evolving logic of what is known today as “challenge framing” or “challenge mapping.” In Guidebook, Parnes introduces numerous key invitation stems that have sometimes been creatively attributed to later arriving others; included are: “How Might I?” (page131), “How Might We?” (page 125), “How Might You?” (page 161), and “In What Ways Might We?” (page 127). Since that 1967 publication, many additional invitation stems have been added by others, including “How Might They?”, “How Might Our Team?”, “How Might Our Organization?”, etc. Thanks to Sidney’s early work, “How Mights” have been in the public domain for decades, and have become integral to numerous creative thinking systems. Framed as questions in search of answers, “How Mights” can be seen in practical, everyday use within many innovation consultancies today, including Humantific, IDEO and many others. What’s different now is what we do with them.”
UPDATE: See Part 2 and Part 3 of Origins of How Might We? below in additional comments by GK VanPatter.
Note: Applied Creativity pioneer Sid Parnes authored 17 books from 1960 to 1997, including: Toward Supersanity: Channeled Freedom (1972), The Magic of Your Mind (1981), A Facilitating Style of Leadership (1985) and Source Book for Creative Problem Solving: A Fifty Year Digest of Proven Innovation Processes (1992). That list can be found on Wikipedia.
See the entire post here: Lost Stories Applied Creativity History.
Image Source: Parnes, Sidney J. Creative Behavior Guidebook. 1967. Page 125. Humantific Innovation Archives, New York.
Innovation Methods Mapping: De-Mystifying 80+ Years of Innovation Process Design.
Feel free to subscribe to Humantific Quarterly.