Six Thinking Hats
I recently posted a blog on what I believe to be the basic rules for success in business, which happened to be one of the most visited by readers. But business issues are never-ending, and luckily there is always additional material to share with readers.
The decision-making process is an area that we cannot ignore if we wish to achieve goals. There is a close relationship between decision-making and leadership. Understanding how we think is important for making effective decisions.
Western tradition lacks a simple model of constructive thought. This tradition –which emerged from the great Greek philosophers– addresses what is but there is another aspect of thinking that has to do with what can be.
Unfortunately, the traditional way of thinking is not powerful enough for a constantly changing world. The “what can be” angle needs to be addressed with constructive and creative thinking to design new paths and solutions that can be adapted to a constantly changing reality.
These ideas are discussed in a book that was recently recommended to me by a blog reader. Six Thinking Hats by psychologist Edward de Bono, develops a method to help order the thought process, increase its productivity, and facilitate problem solving, thus helping to improve results.
The six hats method enables us to advance step by step in the discussion of a topic, dealing with one issue at a time. By separating emotion from logic and creativity from information, we remove the main obstacle to effective thinking, namely, confusion.
This way of structuring our thinking simplifies the process and encourages a change of attitude in people, by facilitating the organization of divergent opinions. It does so not by confronting them, but by arranging them in such a way that everyone sees the problem from the same vantage point (or hat). When the time comes, one of the ideas is chosen or the different positions are taken into account to propose a solution. This author calls this parallel thinking.
The concept of the hats is a symbolic tool used to identify thought processes and determine how to constructively focus them.
It is used in work sessions where problems are addressed in stages and one of the six different hats -white, red, black, yellow, green, or blue- corresponds to each stage. Each defines a type of thought.
- The white hat represents a neutral or objective mindset. It involves thinking based on concrete facts and numbers.
- The red hat is the opposite, representing the emotional outlook. It recognizes that emotions are part of the thought processes. By "using" this hat, we open ourselves to the expression of intuition.
- The black hat represents caution. This way of thinking allows us to identify potential conflicts and consider the risks. It helps us decide if our strategy is to be maintained or if we will be adjusting the sails to correct the direction we’re heading in.
- The yellow hat symbolizes positive thinking. It seeks the benefits of an idea, its potential value in practice. It enables us to make a favorable evaluation of a plan but from a logical basis; the proposal must have a raison d’etre.
- The green hat represents creativity, new ideas. Thinking from this vantage point leads us to propose alternatives or solutions to potential conflicts and problems that arise from the black hat perspective.
- Finally, the blue hat indicates authority. It’s up to the blue hat to direct group thinking, to organize it, to control the process (it decides when to change hats) and is responsible for defining the goal of a meeting. It determines when it is time to present a summary and conclusions, or establishes the steps to be taken if it feels that no progress has been made in resolving an issue. This role falls to the leader or coordinator of the work session.
The author proposes two ways to wear the hats, individually and in a sequence. The individual way is used during a discussion to ask for a certain type of thought process (hat color) when the need arises for new options. In the sequential mode, hats are used one after another in accordance with a previously established order. All or some of the hats can be used.
The hats indicate the direction to think, with members of the group respecting their use. Only the person who is assigned the blue hat can authorize changes.
Over the years, De Bono concludes, results show that with this method, members of a group with the most varied personalities can look and work in the same direction, efforts and talents come together, making the most of their experiences, knowledge and different points of view. At the same time, egocentric conflicts are reduced, confusion is eliminated, and time can be saved when discussing problems. I think it's worth considering.