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Six Thinking Hats

How to make discussions and decision making processes more efficient.

Years ago, as I was on a business trip to Dublin, I bought a very interesting book: "Teach yourself how to think", Edward De Bono, 1996, Penguin Books. Today, this book came to my mind again. I took it out of the bookcase and browsed through it a little bit. This way I came across the six thinking hats framework again.

The basic idea behind this framework: When discussing in a group, for a defined period of time, all group members align their thinking along a specific direction. This way it becomes easier to focus on the subject-matter and not on that what the last person said. And IMHO the biggest benefit of this framework is that it helps to remove ego and politics out of the discussion.

For the alignment of the thinking, the framework defines six (imaginary) thinking hats:

  • The White Hat - exclusive focus on available/needed/missing information
  • The Red Hat - free expression of (gut) feelings, no justifying needed
  • The Black Hat - risk assessment, critical thinking, looking for problems
  • The Yellow Hat - positive thinking, search for values and benefits
  • The Green Hat - moving forward, seeking new ideas, changing existing ideas
  • The Blue Hat - control, overview, results, summaries, conclusions

During a discussion or a problem solving process, hats can be used in a pre-defined sequence or the sequence evolves and the hats are used as needed. The author warns that unexperienced groups should choose the first approach in order to avoid possible discussions about which hat to apply as next.

I am really looking forward to try this out some time soon. I strongly believe, especially in groups where people equal in hierarchy are discussing about a topic/problem with more than one alternative, this simple framework can significantly improve the process.

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