Six Thinking Hats
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Six Thinking Hats
Everyone focuses on the same type of thinking at the same time (parallel thinking), which minimizes conflict and promotes progress. When switching hats, everyone changes to the different mode of thinking to tap into their collective knowledge. This eliminates egos and has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of time spent in meetings. Just one hat may be used ("What's your red hat on this issue?"), or a combination of the Six Thinking Hats may be used in a particular sequence to examine an issue.
Information - considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
Information That We Have
We can often find more information by taking a close look at what is known than we might expect. It’s like detective work: each known fact can be examined for its significance.
Information That We Would Like to Have
Here we include everything that comes to mind, without deciding whether there is a way to get the information or how urgently it is needed. Sometimes there are ways of getting information that at first seems unattainable.
Information That We Need
If we focus on information that we need after we’ve listed everything that we’d like to have, then it’s a matter of prioritizing. If we’ve gone straight to thinking about what is most needed, then it’s a matter of discriminating. What’s the minimum information we must have before we can move forward?
Information That is Missing
Here we are pinpointing exactly what information is missing.
Sources for Getting any Missing Information
Listing sources of information and planning how to get information are part of white hat thinking. It’s never enough to complain that the information is missing. We have to go out and get it.
Creativity - statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes
The Green Hat as a Formal Signal
People often say that they cannot be creative because they don’t have time or their work culture doesn’t encourage it. Green Hat Thinking creates a micro culture for innovation at any given moment.
Expecting Creative Effort
You cannot demand that people have wonderful new ideas, but you can expect them to develop a habit of making a creative effort. Use Green Hat Thinking to call for this effort. Creativity is a matter of investing time in generating ideas. You won’t get a wonderful idea every time you use Green Hat Thinking, but if you do not put forth any effort, you may not get any new ideas at all.
Adopting a Creative Attitude
What if you’re in a Green Hat session and can’t think of any ideas? The simplest form of creative effort is to look for alternatives. Even if these are well-known, it’s a creative effort to recall and list them. The minimum creative effort during Green Hat Thinking is to think of alternatives.
Green Hat Thinking in Problem Solving
When Black Hat Thinking reveals faults, the Green Hat is used to remove these faults. When Black Hat Thinking points out difficulties, Green Hat Thinking tries to overcome these difficulties.
Optimistic response - logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
Values and Benefits
Values are more abstract than benefits. We may sense a value in an idea and then need to look around to see how the value can be enjoyed. Benefits are more specific. Who will reap the benefits? How are the benefits going to be enjoyed?
Reasons for Optimism
In Yellow Hat Thinking, there must be reasons to support the benefits that are claimed. In Green Hat Thinking, we note possibilities even if they are vague and unlikely. With the Yellow Hat, we must have reasons why something has value or might work.
Can this idea be made to work? Will this idea work in practice? We can estimate feasibility given the existing system, and we can also consider modifying either the idea or the system to increase the feasibility.
Sometimes the idea itself is unattractive, but the concept behind the idea has great value. Any idea is only one way of carrying out a concept. There may be better ways. So we keep the concept alive and later use Green Hat Thinking to develop more feasible ways to carry it out.
Discernment - logic applied to identifying reasons to be cautious and conservative
Exploring Lack of Fit
Whenever something is suggested, we need to make sure the idea fits the circumstances. Black Hat Thinking points out things that do not fit the facts, regulations, strategy, our experience, or our values.
Looking at faults
The Black Hat helps us improve on an idea by drawing attention to the faults in the idea. Once we see the faults, we may be able to think of ways to overcome them. Note: We think of ways to overcome them later, when we’re using Green Hat Thinking.
Scanning for Potential Problems
Black Hat Thinking can discover potential problems that might arise. Then we can either design ways to avoid the problems or be prepared to address the problems if they do come up.
Assessing Yellow Hat Output
Black Hat Thinking is a powerful assessment tool to use after Yellow Hat Thinking. Before an idea is put into action, we need to see if it is safe, legal, feasible, profitable, etc.
Emotions - intuitive or instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
Red Hat Thinking is very valuable because it makes clear that intuition, feelings, and emotions are going to be expressed as such. There is no need to pretend that they are something else. If feelings are indeed present, it is helpful to know what these feelings are. We can then see what we are dealing with.
Considering Feelings in Decision Making
Feelings and intuition cannot be checked out, so it is unwise to use the Red Hat alone for decision making. However, Intuition, hunches, feelings, and emotions have a high value as “ingredients” in the thinking that leads up to a decision.
Recognizing a Range of Feelings
Red Hat Thinking includes a wide variety of possible feelings. On the positive/negative scale, people may report everything from detesting an idea to being wildly enthusiastic. More subtle feelings are also included: feeling curious or mildly interested, being uncertain or ambivalent, finding a proposal boring, etc. When taking the general temperature of a group (rather than feelings about a specific issue), various members may report feeling upset, fearful, excited, angry, determined, exasperated, optimistic, tired, or a host of other internal states. It can be helpful to know what state people are in before you even start the agenda. Remember not to ask for explanations.
Sequences always begin and end with a blue hat; the group agrees together how they will think, then they do the thinking, then they evaluate the outcomes of that thinking and what they should do next.
Defining the Focus
What are we thinking about?
What is our goal?
Setting out the Agenda
Here we’re referring to making a plan for using the hats as well as for how and when we’re going to handle any other activity during the meeting.
When discussions become heated or get off track, there is a need for someone to put on the Blue Hat and control the situation. Otherwise, the thinking can quickly revert to the traditional argument.
It is part of Blue Hat Thinking to state conclusions that a group seems to have reached and get agreement to or revision of the stated conclusions. Even if no decision has been made, the conclusion should note new ideas and approaches that have been considered. A summary is concerned with what has taken place. A conclusion is concerned with what has been achieved.