Six Thinking Hats

This week’s exercise is inspired by Edward de Bono's work in the field of creative thinking and innovation.

You know that moment when someone asks a question that totally blindsides you?

Moments like that are often followed by a lot of "hmm.." and "um..." and awkward silence as you fumble your way through a response. Part of handling these situations involves practicing your off-the-cuff response skills. But for those of us that still get flustered even with plenty of improv experience under our belts, it's helpful to have another trick up your sleeve.


Introducing Your Six Hats Exercise

What It Is
A way to look at any problem or solution from six different perspectives to make sure you are considering all the angles of your challenge.

Why We Love It 
The more experience we get, the more we tend to see things from the perspective we know and are comfortable with. This exercise forces you to mull over multiple perspectives to make sure you aren't limiting your thinking and running the risk of being blindsided by something you hadn't considered. 

How It Works

1. Select a problem you've been noodling on at work and outline your potential solution.

2. As you think about your solution, take 12 minutes to consider each of the following points of view, or what deBono calls "thinking hats". Keep in mind that this works best if you spend at least two minutes on each one - resist the urge to consider them all at once:
- White Hat is all about data. Ask yourself, what do the facts tell me about my solution? Where might I need more data to understand if this really solves the problem?
- Red Hat is intuition focused. What kind of gut reaction do I have to this solution? How might others react to this emotionally? How can I anticipate and prepare for the range of potential emotional reactions others might have?
- Black Hat provides a healthy dose of pessimism. Where are there weak points in this solution? How might things go wrong and what can I do to prepare?
- Yellow Hat rounds out the black hat with optimism. What is valuable here and how will people benefit from it? What are the benefits of this solution to all my major stakeholders?
- Green Hat represents creativity. What might be a more unexpected solution? What might the solution look like if we considered the impossible or removed current constraints?
- Blue Hat looks at the overall process. What might the process look like to roll out this solution? Which thinking hats might be critical at which phases of the journey? 

3. Take 3-5 minutes to re-evaluate your problem and solution. Given what you learned by considering the six hats, how might you modify your solution? How might you present it differently to your team? What kinds of questions might emerge if you consider the POVs represented in de Bono's six thinking hats? 

Source: The de Bono Group

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- Shankar Desai, Group Manager @ Google
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Shankar Desai