Creative Ways to Use Six Thinking Hats

by Glen Fahs on May 23, 2016

in Leadership,Questions

Six Thinking Hats

Many times meetings to discuss plans and change are poorly facilitated. Participants sometimes don’t share their concerns, or contradict each other and don’t commit to action.

One way to improve team cohesion and productivity is using the Six Thinking Hats, conceived by Dr. Edward DeBono. While DeBono believed just being conscious of which hat one is wearing improves discussion, I recommend getting each contributor in a small group of planners to wear each hat sequentially and simultaneously. Having everyone doing the same kind of thinking at each step counteracts dissonance and strengthens each of these ways of considering a proposal:

Blue Hat – Process and Plans

The facilitator needs to explain how the discussion will proceed (e.g., asking each individual for an expression or instead allowing spontaneous contributions) and the importance of keeping comments consistent with the hat all will use in a scheduled order. Generally, there is no criticism allowed as long as the person’s comments are in synch with the hat designated at each step.

Red Hat – Feelings and Intuition

This is the best one to start a discussion if there are strong feelings about an idea, such as moving the office to a new location. Feelings should not be explained or justified, only expressed simply, such as “sad,” “mad,” “glad” or “skeptical.” Intuition might be a conclusion, such as “it will be a total fiasco.”

White (or Clear if you prefer) Hat – Data

What we know, and what we need to know.

Yellow Hat – Benefits

The upside of the proposal or plan. Build the case before casting doubts.

Black (or Dark) Hat – Cautions

The downside and risks, alerting the team to dangers and needs.

Green Hat – Creativity

The no-holds-barred brainstorming of how to accentuate the upside and minimize the downside. The temporary assumption is that anything is possible.

Red Hat (x2)

“Any changes in feelings or intuition?” If most feel the proposal is fatally flawed, it’s okay to stop here.

Blue Hat (x2)

Review the discussion; explore whether it’s wise to collect more data first, or if it’s time to make decisions about implementation, specifying who will do what by when.

Once your team is familiar with the hats, a strong discussion can take less than an hour. Instead of bickering, even the proponent has shared the risks and downside and the critics have admitted the potential benefits of moving ahead. The team is more likely to unify around a better proposal than when the discussion began, knowing that the Six Hats strengthened their analysis, their creativity and their commitment to the wisest course.

Try it! If you’d like a color guideline on the Six Thinking Hats, call Ann at Cascade, 503-585-4320.

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