3 steps to overcoming challenges and exploring breakthrough ideas

If you have come across a daunting challenge and you feel stuck on how to go about it fret not. All you need is a couple of design thinking exercises to blast through those creative blocks and into the realm of creative confidence.

The below steps is what I use to come up with ideas whenever there's a big challenge or if the idea is unclear. You can do this exercise individually or with a team.

Step 1

Define the challenge/problem you're trying to solve using a How Might We (HMW) note.

HMW notes is a design thinking tool that's great for looking at problems through an opportunistic lens rather than a problematic one.


At Very Bad Wizards we often try to experiment and help businesses validate ideas before you do some serious execution. My business partner's roommate — Alec Herrera (@senior_smokie) — was trying to figure out if there was a market for healthy kombucha drinks in Sri Lanka.

We thought it was perfect to conduct an experiment to figure this out.

Here are the two most important challenges we faced framed as "how might we" notes:

Step 2

Now that you've gotten your challenges down, it's time to look for inspiration. It's important to know that you don't need to rely on creativity to come up with a brilliant idea. All you've got to do is to fill your mind with similar solutions to the problem you're trying to solve.


For our challenges, these are the example solutions that we found:

Overall concept

Poster designs

Step 3

Time to come up with your own solution! This is where you remix and improve the ideas that you found in the previous step.

When you're attempting this it's better to attempt it on paper before moving to a digital tool. Pen and paper encourage you to make mistakes and iterate quickly.

What you need in this step is enough detail that explains the idea clearly.


Initial concepts

From paper sketches to high fidelity designs

Everything you need to know:

  1. Define your challenge or problem by writing it down as a "how might we" note.
  2. Look for inspiration. By looking at your HMW statement, collect ideas of how other people might have solved the problem.
  3. Remix and improve. With enough information on the problem and inspiration to solve it, your subconscious is primed to come up with a killer idea. Sketch it out on paper first and then execute!

Oh, and If you're wondering how our example went during execution... it was a success!

73 cups in total in the "YES" bin and 2 in the "No". Some people even paid for a coffee-infused kombucha which is the ultimate form of validation.