You might be asking from the start, “what does that graphic have to do with thinking right?” Well, it depicts the problem of adversarial thinking and unfortunately, it’s the most common form we are exposed to and poison for an organization. Such thinking plays out in front of us every day in politics and religion where we often spar based on our associations, instead of thinking about how we think. This nefarious problem also occurs daily within our organizations and hampers our ability to innovate, solve problems, and improve customer service among many other things. Consider this scenario: The boss gathers the team and asks the group to brainstorm some new ideas to meet the challenges of a new regulation. Jan, a relative newcomer raises her hand and offers a suggestion. Quickly, Fred, an “old timer,” blurts out something like “we’ve done that before and it didn’t work” or more harshly, “That’s nice but naïve, with a little experience you’ll learn….” The boss doesn’t protect Jan, so Alex, who liked Jan’s idea but reports to Fred, decides he’s not speaking up and starts texting his buddy under the table. Nancy, a seasoned employee, fumes at Fred’s bullying. The poison in the room spreads. Now verbal ping-pong ensues and/or creative ideas get shut down because participants are assessing the politics at play. Feeling the tension, others simply tune out (and pull out their smartphones).
There’s a far better way called Six Thinking Hats by Edward deBono and it works like this:Six hats, six colors, = six thinking perspectives.
Yellow is the hat of benefits and optimism; White is the hat of facts and truth; Red is the hat of emotion; Green is the hat of new ideas; Black is the hat of risk and obstacles; and Blue is the hat of facilitation or organization.
So in the session above, an alternative approach works like this: The boss (wearing the “blue hat”) calls the meeting and clearly articulates why they are there – to find a way to deal with the new regulation. He asks each person to “put on a white hat” and report their current status, activities, and other relevant facts. He then asks them to put on their “green hats” and has each provide some ideas and records them on the wall. Taking each idea in turn, he asks everyone to put on the “yellow hat” and asks each to comment on the possible benefits of the given idea. The same follows with a “black hat” where each member in turn offers their view of what obstacles and risks are associated with the ideas. Finally, he says, “I’d like to get your gut reaction to the ideas and their associated benefits and risks. Please put on your red hats and tell me which are the best two ideas, in your view, that we should explore further.” Finally, he asks all to put on the “blue hat” with him and offer what they think are the logical next steps.
There are finer points and alternative ways to using Six Thinking Hats, but it’s important to note that each hat represents a way of thinking – six perspectives to be used by all parties one at a time. By having each participant “put on” the same hat and provide input in turn, you introduce what Dr. deBono calls “Parallel Thinking” – a simple, yet powerful way to harness the best available brain power and virtually eliminate the limits imposed by engaging in adversarial thinking. If you think it might be tough for people to voice their input freely, there are tools you can use with Six Hats. Read more on that on my website here. If you’d like to use Six Hats with mind-mapping for a really powerful meeting, send me an email. I’d love to help you get started.