In some situations, such as brainstorming discussions, it is useful to use a parallel analysis model based on Edward de Bono's six hats. Simply, when discussion a subject among peers, all participants adopt the same perspective at any one time; and the group adopts five particular perspectives usual in decision making as follows:

  • fact finding

  • intuition

  • logical negative/pessimism/problems (no)

  • logical positive/optimism (yes)

  • creativity/solutions

The sixth hat is for administration - managing the meeting and drawing conclusions.

The following is extracted from Leadership styles and problem solving by Stuart Palmer of Deakin University, Australia.

The white hat White is neutral While wearing the white hat we ignore arguments and proposals, we examine the facts, figures and information that we have, and identify what information we don’t have, and how we might get it

What information do we have here? What information is missing? What information would we like to have? How are we going to get the information?

The red hat Red is for feelings, hunches and intuition It permits people to put forward their feelings without the need for apology, explanation or attempt to justify them Intuition may be a composite judgement based on years of experience, and it can be valuable even if the reasons behind it cannot be spelled out consciously

Putting on my red hat, this is what I think about the project ... My gut feeling is that it will not work I don’t like the way this is being done My intuition tells me that prices will fall soon

The black hat The black hat is the logical negative It is the hat of caution & critical judgement It is the most used hat, and perhaps the most valuable hat, mistakes may be disastrous At the same time, it is very easy to overuse the black hat, it is easy to kill creative ideas with early negativity

The regulations do not permit us to do that We do not have the production capacity to meet that order When we tried a higher price the sales fell off He has no experience in export management

The yellow hat The yellow hat is for optimism and the logical positive view of things It looks for feasibility and how something can be done It looks for benefits, but they must be logically based

That might work if we moved the production plant nearer to the customers The benefit would come from repeat purchases The high cost of energy would make everyone more energy efficient

The green hat The green hat is for creative thinking, new ideas and additional alternatives Putting on the green hat makes time and space for creative effort This is were we engage in lateral thinking and other creative techniques

We need some new ideas here. Are there any additional alternatives? Could we do this in a different way? Could there be another explanation?

The blue hat The blue hat is the thinking overview or process control hat It is usually used by the chairperson of the meeting: it sets the agenda for thinking; it suggests the next step for thinking; it asks for summaries, conclusions and decisions

We have spent far too much time looking for someone to blame Could we have a summary of your views? I think we should take a look at the priorities I suggest we try some green hat thinking to get some new ideas

de Bono’s ‘Six Hats’ It is common for meetings to get bogged down in arguments where people take positions and defend them to the death The 6 hats is a cooperative tool rather than a adversarial tool In a normal meeting, it is easy for someone not to look for positives if they do not support an idea - the 6 hats technique challenges participants to see all sides.

See the full article here.


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