According to Zippia, “the average worker spends at least three hours a week in meetings” and, shockingly, 71% of meetings are classed as unproductive. As professionals, we are spending more valuable time engaging in conflicting discussions when that time could be condensed and produce more meaningful results.
To combat this ‘wasted’ time, Edward De Bono created the ‘6 Thinking Hats’ which enable a targeted and conflict-free problem solving approach.
De Bono used it in his work advising government agencies, but also wanted it to be a practical tool used for everyday decision-making. The tool can be utilised by individuals or groups and it allows you to investigate issues from 6 different angles in a structured way because every hat is a different colour with a different perspective. It takes you and your team away from instinctive positions and forces you to explore each perspective collectively before moving on to a different viewpoint – yielding a unified decision.
How it works?
White Hat – people will be asked to put on their imaginary white hat in order to gather information and state the facts relating to the discussion. It also gives the opportunity to acknowledge what information is still missing and where you can get it from.
Green Hat – wearing this hat, people are only allowed to come up with positive new ideas without having to justify them. Any criticisms must be saved for the black hat.
Yellow Hat – you may think about the benefits of each idea and the added value that accompanies them. It is an optimistic hat but also logical. It allows people to see the bright side when they are feeling negative about an issue, and how feasible it would be.
Black Hat – should be worn in order to assess any risks relating to the idea and provide critical judgements with explanations regarding why some ideas may not work.
Red Hat – ideally, the red hat should be worn last. This is because when it comes to making the final decision, people tend to trust their ‘gut feeling’, and that’s what the red hat is about – decisions based on emotion.
Blue Hat – the person wearing this hat will organise and control the process, and look for conclusions in order to make the discussion as productive as possible. They may also direct the group towards another type of thinking if people are struggling to generate ideas, for example, it may be worth while to do some creative green hat thinking again after using the black hat.
You do not have to stick to those particular colours and can choose your own. You may also change the order of the above, to suit your group discussion better. However, your hats must include the above elements and it is recommended you use the same colours every time you engage in the exercise.
Putting it into practice:
- When you have a problem to discuss, prepare for the meeting by printing out the different coloured hats and attach each to a separate sheet of paper, then pin them up around the room (or you can do this digitally, for example, a presentation with a hat per slide).
- Start the meeting by introducing this decision-making tool and explain how it works and why it is used.
- Discuss the issue at hand by asking the group to move around the room and ‘wear’ each hat in your chosen order.
- You or someone else should adopt the blue hat to facilitate the meeting and take notes of any ideas on the allocated sheets, ensuring that every hat is used.
- At the end of the session, come to a conclusion, a strategy, and assign tasks accordingly.
How would this benefit your decision-making process?
Greater inclusivity in teams – everybody will be able to participate and encouraged to examine each perspective in turn. This means no single person or view is allowed to dominate the discussion.
Eliminates the chances of biased decision-making – because the rule is to explore different viewpoints, your thinking capacity will be broadened which means that any bias can be broken.
Encourages parallel thinking – this tool splits the focus of the discussion in specific directions and people’s thinking styles become parallel to each other. They can discuss without debate, or negative conflict which is a lot more productive than argument.
Reduce meeting time – the process will make your meetings more organised, which will make them much shorter.
Organisations successfully using The 6 Thinking Hats include:
Did it work at TS Grale?
We utilised this tool in one of our Innovation Morning’s, where we split our team into 2 groups to solve the same problem and come up with a relevant new process. Both teams had an hour to do so. The team with the best and most practical idea had the opportunity to implement it.
Team 1 – solved the problem using their regular decision-making process.
Team 2 – used The 6 Thinking Hats process.
After both teams pitched their idea to the Managing Partners, Team 2 was the winner. Their idea was very clear, practical and achievable, with a plan for implementation. The participants were able to evaluate every aspect and follow the step-by-step process effectively which lead to an accurate result in under an hour! There was no conflict, and participants felt like the process was easy to follow.
On the other hand, Team 1 produced an idea that had a lot of potential, but it was difficult to understand and it wasn’t clear on how we could put it into practice, in other words, it seemed unfinished. According to the leader of Team 1, it was hard to keep individuals in order, there was no structure and people with different perspectives spoke over each other. This lead to a lack of conclusion.
According to our mini experiment, The 6 Thinking Hats tool definitely works! Even in smaller groups. It certainly proved how important it is to have structure when making business decisions in teams.
For more information or to discuss, please leave a comment.