Most of us tackle complex problems on a daily basis as part of our work, which require multiple people to collaborate and communicate. How often do you find yourself sitting in long meetings with no actionable outcomes and in an atmosphere that lacks creativity? If you’d like to increase effectiveness of your meeting and boos creativity, you might want to consider applying the concept of Six Thinking Hats, an easy-to-implement tool for facilitating effective group discussions and creative thinking.
So what is Six Hats? Six Thinking Hats, developed by Edward de Bono, embodies the concept of parallel thinking in which the mind is always dedicated to one specific direction at any given time. Six Hats provides a collection of hats each with its own colour representing a specific thinking mode.
Blue Hat: The Blue Hat is about facilitating the Six Hat process, helps set the agenda and the goal of the session.
White Hat: The White Hat is about the data and facts, it helps to gather the information known or needed.
Yellow Hat: The Yellow Hat symbolizes benefits and values (both known and potential)
Green Hat: Green Hat is about considering possibilities, alternatives, new ideas and new concepts. Green Hat is about creating concepts that might overcome black hat concerns or reinforcing yellow hat values.
Black Hat: The Black Hat symbolises the cautions, dangers and problems helping identify the logical negative or disadvantages of the idea in consideration.
Red Hat: Red Hat is about expressing emotions or gut feeling.
Why is Six Hats so powerful? Traditional thinking focuses on disproving one’s argument utilising critical thinking methods. This often involves argument and debate. Unfortunately, heavy use of critical thinking can discourage and de-motivate people. For example, most of us (yes, including myself!) become attached to our own ideas and might feel discouraged when someone criticises our ideas.
Parallel thinking deals with this challenge by decoupling ego from individual performance, allowing best ideas to win. Its strength lies in exploring issues or ideas collaboratively instead of adversarial confrontation. Unlike traditional thinking, parallel thinking assumes that there might be multiple options that could help solve a problem.
So, how do you implement Six Hats? The sequence of the hats depends on the context of each situation, so you may need to test out a sequence and see what works best for you. You don’t have to use all the hats in a session. However, always start and end with a Blue Hat.
Below is an example of a sequence that I use to help teams decide whether they should implement Lean-Agile principles.
Blue Hat (1 minute):
We start by setting the goal and agenda for the session, I find it very useful to kick off the Six Hat process with a question like this: “Given what you’ve seen today, will implementing Lean-Agile principles make meaningful improvements in your team?”
White Hat (3 minutes):
The group then focuses on gathering the data available at hand while identifying missing data that the team needs to gather, as well.
Yellow Hat (5 minutes):
Example: We then direct thinking to focus on the logical positive and identify the potential benefits that the Lean-Agile principles might bring.
Black Hat (5 minutes):
The team focuses on identifying the known and potential disadvantages that the Lean-Agile principles might bring.
Green Hat (5 minutes):
Example: Having identified all the logical negatives the team focuses on coming up with ways to address all the Black Hat points.
Red Hat (1 minute):
By this time the team will have identified all the logical reasons using different hats. Then I’d ask the team “What is your gut feel about implementing Lean-Agile principles” and then I go around the room and let them express feelings in just one word. I try to take note of what they have said without asking for an explanation as to why they feel how they feel.
Blue Hat (2 minutes):
I thank the team for their participation, summarise the results and share the next steps. Some next steps could be to work on the potential black hat issues or gather more information on a green hat idea etc.
Six Thinking Hats is a practical tool that could help us boost creativity and effectiveness when dealing with complex problems. Don’t obsess about designing the right sequence, simply get started and evolve as you see fit.
For more, watch Edward de Bono’s video explaining the Six Thinking Hats.