Dare to think differently

“It’s fascinating when Sally and Greg are in the same meeting. You can count on Sally to point out what’s wrong and Greg to focus on what’s right. Together they make the perfect glass half-empty, half-full pair.”

Sally and Greg’s styles represent two of Dr. Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats™ - an effective method for moving beyond limiting mindsets: I’m right/you’re wrong, confrontation, either/or, number-cruncher.

Six hat thinking gives a whole new meaning to putting on one’s thinking cap (couldn’t resist!). Dr. de Bono believes the human brain is capable of thinking in six ways. He assigned a definition and a color to each of the six thinking styles: judgment and caution (black), positive (yellow), creative (green), emotionally (red), thinking (blue), and objective (white).

Keep in mind the colors/hats are directions/ways of thinking, not categories of people.

I’ve been in work teams where we successfully used this powerful approach to level the brain-storming playing field amongst introverts, those who are dominant, abstract or concrete thinkers, and confirmed right- or left-brain thinkers.  When included in meeting facilitation, six hat thinking increases creativity, productivity, personal development and teamwork.

Using six hat thinking is a safe way to both modify behavior without attacking it, to encourage innovative thinking, and see both/and opportunities.  Aha moments happen when our perception changes. Using a different style of thinking can help facilitate those moments of insight. Another reason why I like this approach is the unthreatening way it allows for both logic (head) and emotion (heart) to be introduced.

Emotions are an essential part of our thinking ability and not just something extra that mucks up our thinking. ~Dr. Edward de Bono

Ready to gather around and try on different hats of thinking?

White hat. Think objectively - do not consider hunches, intuition, impressions or opinions. Be neutral. Use just the known facts, information, statistics and numbers. Ask impartially: what we do, don’t, and/or need to know. Identify confirmed facts as well as those facts believed to be true.

Red hat. Think with your heart. Put forward all emotions, perceptions, judgments, and intuitions associated with the topic under discussion. Neither a basis in logic nor justification are required. Put concerns about consistency aside. Tap into what your gut says and how it makes you feel.

Black hat.  When wearing the black hat, you have total and complete permission to be as pessimistic as you can be. Think cautiously and logically. Consider the logical negative, i.e. why something won’t work.  Focus on potential errors, problems, risks and obstacles. Ferret out how “a suggestion does not fit the facts, the available experience, the system in use, or the policy that is being followed.”  Identify dead ends and blind spots.

Yellow hat. Look for the best case scenario, the most logical positive outcome.  Present reasons why something will work and the benefits it will produce. Consider opportunities, advantages and future vision. Ponder why something is worth doing, and how and who it will help.

Green hat.  Be totally creative. Put all ideas, perceptions and concepts on the table.  Seek as many alternatives as possible. Be intellectually provocative. Explore the new, the untried and even the outlandish. Bend the rules. Be imaginative. Focus on producing ideas, not editing or evaluating them.

Blue hat. Controlled thinking about thinking is the aim. This hat looks “not at the subject itself but at the ‘thinking’ about the subject.” Watch for organization. Be focused.  The meeting facilitator typically “wears” the blue hat to manage the overall process to work toward a conclusion.

Using Dr. de Bono’s method introduces a common language, e.g., “We need some green hat thinking on this one” which facilitates using a well-rounded view for problem-solving, whether incremental or ground-breaking innovation is the desired outcome.

Avoid the crowd. Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece. ~Ralph Charell




4 Responses to Dare to think differently

    • Jim - thanks for stopping and sharing. The method can really be helpful individually and with teams…good way to help people stretch their comfort zones and see things from new angles. Hope to hear about your success stories!

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