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?

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