The Three-Word Phrase that Helps Unlock Group Creativity

Let’s say you’re in a meeting, and you want to help your group think more creatively. Which of these phrases should you use?

1) “What if we….”

2) “Why don’t we….”

3) “How might we….”

If you guessed (3), you’re right. For why, check out this cool story on how designers at IDEO (who — you guessed it — are featured in my new book, The Culture Code) ignite team creativity.  The core insight: starting with how might we sends a signal that failure is okay.

“The beauty of the phrase ‘How might we do this’ is that it eliminates fear, stress, and anxiety by supportively implying that there may be more than one solution, and that nothing more is needed at the moment than ideas,” says Jean Greaves, an organizational psychologist and CEO of TalentSmart. “This is the language that primes our mind for having fun exploring, and pushing beyond what’s already known.”

In other words: if you want creativity, start with safety.