The Six Thinking Hats (Hats), developed by Dr. Edward de Bono is a powerful tool for decision making, solving problems, or developing new product ideas. The Hats are a simple, easy-to-learn tool that ensures teams work together to develop optimal solutions. The Hats forces teams to explore subjects in parallel; everyone focuses on one hat at a time, in a short amount of time.
Compared to less productive tools such as brainstorming, the Hats avoid argument and confrontation. The Hats directs teams to focus on an optimal decision, not one based on ego, emotions, or personal agenda. Everyone is forced to develop pros and cons of a subject, not just a single point-of-view.
The Hats require everyone to look at a topic holistically (from all points-of-view). A holistic analysis ensures all benefits and risks are identified; the goal is to develop the optimal solution for the organization, not one based on an individual’s personal agenda clouding the discussion.
A key element of the Hats, is the yellow hat. The yellow hat focuses on benefits and feasibilities of a topic. Often depicted as the pros (compared to the black hat, cons), the yellow hat forces team members to develop benefits and values (along with justification) of why the topic is beneficial. Even if someone is against the idea, they still have to develop benefits and reasons how the idea can provide value.
As with all creative exercises, yellow hat analysis needs to be driven by questions. Several helpful questions when analyzing the benefits and advantages are:
- What ideas, suggestions, or proposals are there for how to approach this problem?
- What is the benefit of this?
- What positives are there for this idea?
- What could be done to make this faster?
- What could be done to make this work better?
- What could make this cheaper?
- Under what conditions would this work?
- What would it take to make this proposal acceptable?
- What is your vision for how this could work?
Most discussions are based on arguments, I am right, you are wrong, focusing on satisfying the ego rather than developing the best options. The Hats unbundles and separates thinking, to think of multiple perspectives and develop the best options. Also, the process avoids thinking of too many things at once.
The Hats helps you explore subjects in a disciplined way, focus on individual aspects of the subject, balance thinking, and maintain discipline (don’t jump between hats). In addition, the Hats create structure in important conversations, and allow all sides to be heard. Use the Hats the next time you want to thoroughly analyze a topic and ensure the optimal decision is made for the benefit of the organization.