Will these silly hats really help me make decisions?

Not Another One!In an earlier post I described Edward DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats. This is a technique to help you adopt a variety of thinking styles for better decisions, individually or in groups. The white hat represents logic and information, the red hat is emotion and intuition, the black hat is risks and problems, the yellow hat is benefits and opportunities, the green hat is creativity, and the blue hat is process and management.

I ran a workshop over the weekend with an exercise based on the hats. I use real hats because it helps people take on unfamiliar thinking styles (and it’s fun). If you’re an upbeat person you’ll have a hard time getting into the critical mood of the black hat, and it helps to have a costume to put on to help you play the bad guy. I had them wearing different hats so that they could experience the various viewpoints at once, get a feel for them, and incorporate them into their own bag of thinking tricks.

One unexpected outcome was that that several participants said it helped to understand the others and to accept their viewpoints. One woman said that it helped her understand her “black hat” husband and value his devil’s advocate positions, which had always felt like a put-down.

It turns out that the six hats can help you through each of the seven steps of making a decision. Here’s how.

1. Mission: Discover the question to be asked
• White: What does the current data show to be the major issue or need?
• Red: Is there an issue pulling on me emotionally?
• Black: What makes me dissatisfied?
• Yellow: Is there an opportunity?
• Green: Are there new goals I haven’t considered?
• Blue: Let’s schedule a meeting to discuss this.

2. End-time: Set a deadline to reach a decision and to act
• White: What information do we need?
• Red: How much time does this deserve?
• Black: What is the cost of delay?
• Yellow: What is the benefit of a speedy decision?
• Green: Is there a clever, quick way to decide this?
• Blue: I’m putting the deadline on my calendar and I’m going to take action on that date.

3. Goals: Identify the full range of goals, needs, and constraints
• White: What are the stated requirements? Why? Why? Why?
• Red: What does success feel like?
• Black: What do I want to avoid?
• Yellow: What do I want to happen?
• Green: Imagine perfect success.
• Blue: Write down all the goals and constraints.

4. Alternatives: Identify the full range of options
• White: Are there alternatives we already know about?
• Red: What does intuition tell us to add?
• Black: Do we need some alternatives to avoid problems?
• Yellow: Do opportunities suggest other alternatives?
• Green: What other alternatives might we consider?
• Blue: List all the alternatives without evaluation.

5. Visualization: Visualize the consequences of each alternative
• White: What does the analysis show?
• Red: How would I subjectively rate each alternative against each goal?
• Black: What’s the worst that could happen?
• Yellow: What’s the best that could happen?
• Green: What are some alternative futures?
• Blue: Keep track of the results in a grid.

6. Insight: Choose the best alternative
• White: Analyze the results grid
• Red: How do I feel about the alternatives?
• Black: Assess each alternative in terms of risk
• Yellow: Assess each alternative in terms of payoff
• Green: Have we missed anything?
• Blue: Document the conclusion.

7. Make it happen: Act on your decision
• White: The decision is made. Let’s do it.
• Red: It feels right. Let’s do it.
• Black: We don’t want to drag it out. Let’s do it.
• Yellow: Things will be better once we take action. Let’s do it.
• Green: Change is good. Let’s do it.
• Blue: We’ve been through all the steps. Let’s do it.

Have you used Six Thinking Hats? What was your experience?

The runaway bridal shower

shower2My daughter just commandeered my house and yard for a bridal shower for a good friend. I can remember a time (Now, doesn’t that make me sound old!) when a bridal shower was simply held in somebody’s apartment. Everybody sat around on mismatched folding chairs with plates balanced on their laps and had cake and punch. Nice and simple.

I’ve watched my daughter stress out the last few weeks putting together this big production. You couldn’t walk through the family room for all the art projects in progress for the decorations, favors and games. There was food to arrange, tables to rent, games to create. There was a theme and colors. There were 50 people invited. The other bridesmaids were not pulling their weight. People were not getting the invitations in the mail for some reason and would need to be called.

I’m proud to say that my daughter is a take-charge person. She’s a decision maker. She figures out what needs to be done and how to do it. The problem is that she’s also a take-over person. She sees what needs to be done and picks up the slack and takes over from the slackers. As a result, she was doing most of the work herself, as she often does.

I’ve seen this in myself and others. Being a take-charge person comes with the risk of becoming a take-over person and burning yourself out. Part of being an effective decision maker is assessing the costs in money, time, energy, and lost opportunities. How much is good enough? What is the benefit of what we are planning to do? Is it worth it? Will this make the party more enjoyable? Will it make the bride-to-be feel special? Will people enjoy this or am I just showing off?

Saturday was the shower. I woke up early and came into the family room and found three young women madly cooking and decorating. There was stuff all over the house, so I ate breakfast outside. Was this going to be ready by the 11:00 party? I couldn’t imagine.

Somehow everything was ready when the guests arrived. There was a festive champagne buffet brunch with a waffle bar and a chocolate fountain. Beautifully decorated tables sat on the grass under a white canopy. Everyone had a good time and the bride was thrilled.

Afterwards, I asked my daughter whether it was worth all the weeks of work and stress. She said, yes, it was all worth it because her friend deserved it.

What do you think? Have celebrations become overly elaborate and stressful or is it all worth it? How do you keep yourself from becoming a take-over person?