Wilson Steiner Briefing | Creative Technique Pages  |  April, 2017


The ‘H and 5Ws’ creative thinking technique.

The ‘H and Five Ws’ technique helps identify new information to include in the creative thinking process.

An H 5Ws

The ‘H and Five Ws’ technique helps identify factors that have potentially been left outside of the limits of the problem that your initial statement defined. The ‘H and Five Ws’ technique collects information, giving you the chance to include this information in the sideways thinking process, should it seem appropriate and/or useful to do so. As with ‘Examining the limits of the problem’, the ‘H and Five Ws’ sideways thinking technique helps provide new perspectives on the problem and new approaches to solving it. That is, it provides alternative sideways steps you could take. 


Steps to follow: –

  1. State the problem using the format IWWM…. (In What Ways Might….?).
  2. Write down separate lists of Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? related to the initial problem statement.
  3. Examine your responses to each question, and use your responses as catalysts to producing modified or alternative problem definitions.
  4. Write down a revised problem statement that best captures the problem (or creative project) you want to work on.
  5. Select one revised problem statement that best encompasses the problem you are trying to solve.

Remember: – 

There are no right or wrong answers at this stage in the process. Sideways thinking is about generating possibilities. In generating possibilities you provide yourself with the means of ‘glancing sideways’ – that is taking a sideways step and moving off in a different direction. Generate the possibilities and examine the possibilities; and only after having done that should you begin to apply the criteria of what constitutes a good solution for you. Creative ideas are precious – so don’t throw them away until you are sure that they contain no value for you.


Simple example:  –

Initial problem statement:
In What Ways Might (IWWM) I produce a good painting of my dog?

Write down separate lists of the ‘H and Five Ws’.

  1. (Who?) Artist – Photographer – Local artisan – Teacher – Art school
  2. (What?) Painting – drawing – photograph – model – statue product for sale – card – gift
  3. (How?) competition – paid for – learned myself – added value – commissioned
  4. (Why?) decoration – humour – mnemonic – gift – advert
  5. (Where?) at home – in an art gallery – online – at the vets
  6. (When?) Before Christmas – for a birthday – as a surprise.

Potential new problem statements: –

  1. In What Ways Might I get a local school to set a project to paint a humorous picture of my dog?
  2. IWWM I produce an artwork of my dog that I can use to establish an annual competition of pet pictures with a difference?
  3. IWWM I improve my drawing, painting or photography skill so that I can set up a business producing artwork based on the pets that people register with their local veterinary surgeon?