Including the 6 Thinking Hats
The following four steps outline an effective way to approach problem solving. Each step includes points to consider. Depending upon the problem to be addressed, choose the approach you will use.
1. Define and Agree on the Problem/Challenge
The following questions help to focus the group on the problem or challenge:
- What is the real problem? Focus on the cause, not a symptom.
- How can you get information from employees or other sources that can help you to clearly define the problem?
- What is the final result required?
- What are the operational constraints? (e.g., resources, timeframe, etc.)
- How will we measure success?
- Do all those involved clearly comprehend the overall objectives?
- What would be the impact of acting or not acting?
2. Generate Ideas
How do we generate ideas? Keep the following techniques in mind:
- State a clear objective
- Have one person act as a facilitator
- Set a time limit – keep it sharp and lively
- Use different methods for creating ideas, for example:
Another Person Technique:
Think of someone you know well who has experience in the area you are thinking about, whose skills you admire, who is a whiz at problem solving and ask yourself:
“If I was ‘Person X’ how would I deal with this problem?”
“What if…?” Technique:
The “What if” question is designed to begin to stimulate creative thinking. By asking “what if” questions, the brain begins to arouse curiosity and pose new twists on the original problem or solution. By simply beginning to pose these questions during a quiet moment of reflection, the mind is more attuned to find the answers even in the midst of a hectic day. It would seem that the brain does not wish to have unanswered questions and thus strives to find the answers during the normal course of events.
A third suggestion for solving problems more creatively and effectively is through the use of analogies. An analogy is a way of comparing something that is complex and difficult to understand to something that is simple or more familiar to us. For example, comparing the digestive system to a food processor, a brain to a computer, working with engineers/artists/consultants/….is like herding cats (!), etc.
Using the analogy – think about ways in which one might describe the problem. For example – working with a diverse group is like herding cats because they are independent in their thinking, not committed to a single goal, interested in a personal agenda and have very little to reign them in. How then does one create an environment that allows for the divergent thinking while providing a barrier—through guidelines, etc., that can “herd” the group?
A fourth suggestion for generating ideas is to encourage different thinking styles using Edward DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats Technique:
Six Thinking Hats Technique:
White Hat Thinking
White Hat thinking is like a computer. It offers only facts and figures. It does not offer interpretations or opinions. The White Hat thinker may offer two types of facts:
- First Class facts: Those which have been checked and proven, or
- Second Class Facts: Those which are believed to be true but have not been fully checked.
White Hat thinking is a discipline and a direction. The thinker strives to be more neutral and more objective in the presentation of information. White Hat thinkers will respond to the best of their knowledge, provided they explain to the group the level of their response: first class facts or second class. They are permitted to use qualifying words such as: “by and large,” “sometimes,” “occasionally,” and “as far as I know”. The white (absence of color) indicates neutrality.
Red Hat Thinking
Wearing the Red Hat allows the thinker to say: “This is how I feel about the matter.” The Red Hat validates emotions and feelings as an important part of thinking. The Red Hat makes feelings visible so that they can become part of the thinking of the group. When a thinker is using the Red Hat, there should never be any attempt to justify the feelings or to provide a logical basis for them.
The Red Hat covers two broad types of feeling:
- Ordinary emotions as we know them, ranging from the strong emotions such as fear and dislike to the more subtle ones such as suspicion.
- Complex judgements that go into types of “feeling” such as hunch, intuition, sense, taste, and aesthetics. Where an opinion has a large measure of this type of feeling involved it goes under the Red Hat.
Black Hat Thinking
Black Hat thinking is specifically concerned with negative assessment. The Black Hat thinker points out what is wrong, incorrect and in error. The Black Hat thinker shows how something does not fit past experience or accepted facts, why something will not work, or the faults in design and the risks and dangers.
The Black Hat thinking is not argument and should never be seen as such. It is objective, not emotional. Black Hat thinking is not used to judge or criticise other people. The Black Hat thinker may point out errors in the thinking itself, or judge ideas against the past to see if they fit what is already known. The Black Hat thinker may project an idea into the future to see what might fail or go wrong.
Remember, in the case of new ideas, Yellow Hat thinking should always be used before Black Hat thinking.
Yellow Hat Thinking
Yellow Hat thinking is positive and constructive. The yellow color symbolizes sunshine, brightness and optimism. This type of thinking is concerned with positive assessment just as Black Hat thinking is concerned with negative assessment. It covers a positive spectrum that ranges from the logical and practical at one end to dreams, visions and hopes at the other end.
Yellow Hat thinking probes and explores for value and benefit striving to find logical support for it. Yellow Hat thinking seeks to put forward soundly based optimism. Yellow Hat thinking is constructive and generative. Concrete proposals and suggestions come from this type of thinking. It is concerned with making things happen. The wearer of the Yellow Hat can be speculative and opportunity seeking and is also permitted their visions and dreams.
Yellow Hat thinking is not concerned with mere positive euphoria (Red Hat) or with directly creating new ideas (Green Hat). It is concerned with what will work, how things might be altered to work well, what is logical, and what is positive.
Green Hat Thinking
The Green Hat is for creative thinking. The person who puts on the Green Hat is encouraged to use the tools of creative thinking. Those around are required to treat the output as a creative output. A group may be made up of more than one Green Hat, and in some cases, all of the group members may wish to wear the Green Hat at once.
The green color symbolizes fertility, growth and the value of seeds. The search for alternatives and different option or solutions is a fundamental aspect of Green Hat thinking. Green Hat thinkers take risks and explore uncharted territory. The aim is to move forward and look for new ideas and ways of approaching the problem. The Green Hat thinker may use any number of creative thinking techniques to stimulate ideas (e.g., random word selection).
Blue Hat Thinking
The Blue Hat is the “control” Hat. The role of the Blue Hat thinker is to organise the thinking, the process and to ask questions. Blue Hat thinkers are the conductors of orchestras. They must concentrate on the thinking process and help to focus the group. It is the job of the Blue Hat thinker to call upon the other Hats to contribute.
The Blue Hat thinker defines the subject towards which the thinking is to be directed. Blue Hat thinking summarizes, paraphrases and clarifies. Blue Hat thinking is responsible for stopping arguments and keeping the rules. While the Blue Hat may be assigned to one person, any member of the group is able to use Blue Hat thinking and maintain the process of the group. The Blue Hat thinker is capable of summarising and calling for action.
3. Record and Evaluate Ideas
Once the ideas have been generated, record them on a flipchart. The recording process is important.
- Accept all ideas without criticism – ban the use of the word “but”
- Keep a sense of humor
- Use different methods to ensure all team members are encouraged to contribute
- Use environments conducive to creative thinking
- Decide on the criteria to be used evaluate ideas.
- Narrow down the ideas to be considered (e.g., EMU – Excellent, Maybe, Unsuitable)
- Control the creation of new ideas from the evaluation of original ideas
- Test ideas with demonstrations/pilots
4. Make a Decision
- Celebrate and commit to the decision.
Killing Creativity vs Encouraging Creativity
Groups often react negatively to new ideas due to a natural reluctance to change or a fear of the unknown. Reactions that shoot down a new idea, or the person who came up with it, diminish the creativity of the group as a whole. To encourage creativity, try asking questions.
|Killing Creativity||Encouraging Creativity|
|It won’t work||That sounds interesting. How do you see it working?|
|Yes, but …||How will your idea affect this project?|
|HQ will never go for that.||Great idea. Will we need to sell it to Headquarters?|
|We’ve tried that before …||We have tried a similar approach in the past. How does your idea differ?|