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The flow design pattern of the “Six Thinking Hats” technique

 

Name:    Six Thinking Hats technique

 

Context

In everyday life, problem solving and/or decision making is often a result of collaboration – within a group – of several pe

ople with different thinking and planning styles.  This is evident in the academic, professional, or political context.  Group members contribute according to their personality, inner strengths and thinking styles.  Some people think strategically, methodically and with great discipline, trying to foresee possible consequences, while others people often “listen to their hearts”. Some people think from a very rational, positive

viewpoint, showing resistance to change, while at the same time they don't make creative leaps. Other people are used to a more intuitive approach to problem solving which makes them engage with passion into new ideas that might not be very realistic based on socio-technical constrains of the context.  It is necessary, however, to hear all voices and examine a problem and possible solutions from various perspectives in order to achieve pluralism in depicting the ideal solution.
Example: Let’s assume that a town council is trying to decide whether or not several local school buildings should be combined into a new one, and what the options are for the use of the old buildings if those become vacant. The decision makers have to analyze all options, critically determine the advantages and disadvantages of the suggested solutions, and do a risk assessment of the outcomes before ending up with creative final solutions.

Forces

Six Thinking Hats creativity method can be used when there are time constraints. The formation of groups (applying a hat) is very easy while at the same time there is no need of specific competencies of the participants. It is also proposed when the need of several different opinions can be heard instead of getting as outcome one and final decision. The complexity of this method is minor since no preparation from the participants is needed.     
Problem
How can groups make sure that all possible (practical as well as emotional) perspectives have been examined during a problem solving or a decision making process?

Solution

Use a technique where you can approach the solution to your problem from different perspectives.
“Using the Six Thinking Hats technique for looking at a problem, decisions and plans will mix ambition, skill in execution, sensitivity, creativity and good contingency planning.” as Dr. de Bono stated (1992),
This technique assists groups in creating a complete and concrete view of the problem to be solved, by considering diverse thinking styles and incorporating multiple views.  Groups are able to discuss the full complexity of their decisions, and identify possible drawbacks or benefits which might not, otherwise, be noticed.

Types of Tasks

The collaboration process is broken down into six “Divisions”, each corresponding to a thinking style and represented by a “Thinking Hat”.  Members have to perform their thinking within each division.  The guidelines for each division are:

•    White Hat:  be neutral, objective, and unbiased
•    Red Hat: be intuitive, emotional, and instinctive
•    Black Hat: be pessimistic & judgmental; think of disadvantages
•    Yellow Hat: be optimistic, and hopeful; think positively
•    Green Hat: be creative, think out-of-the box (new perspectives)
•    Blue Hat: manage, coordinate, summarize, facilitate
In the following paragraphs all divisions will be described in detail.

 

White Hat: 

Members who are working on the problem under the White Hat need to collect data, group those, and interpret information objectively and accurately.  The objectives of the White Hat are:

•    Exposition of statistical data
•    Concentration on actual facts (and not opinions or beliefs)
•    Acknowledgement of incomplete or inaccurate knowledge
•    Suggestion of solutions that logically result from the data

Questions asked from a White Hat’s perspective are:

1.    What are known facts, data, and other information on hand?
2.    What are the unknown facts, data, and other information on hand?
3.    What additional information is needed?
4.    What is there to be learned from this procedure?
5.    What is the methodology for obtaining the facts and data needed to reach a solution?
6.    Based strictly on the data and information collected, what are the possible, logically-derived solutions?

 

 

Red Hat: 

Members who are working on the problem under the Red Hat think with their “heart”.  They need to use their intuition and instinct to evaluate the situation, its outcomes, and the possible solutions (as those get proposed by the other divisions).  The objectives of the Red Hat are:

•    Adoption of intuitive reactions
•    Awareness and evaluation of others’ feelings
•    Promotion of emotional views
•    Exposition of implied advantages of different approaches
•    Exposition of implied disadvantages of different approaches
•    Exposition of contradicting outcomes

Questions asked form a Red Hat’s perspective are:

1.    What is my initial reaction to a suggestion?
2.    How do I feel about a decision I might make?
3.    Do I believe I am making the right choice?
4.    Does anything inside me tell me there is a better option?

 

 

 

Black Hat: 

Members who are working on the problem under the Black Hat need to concentrate on the dangers and flaws of each approach, and emphasize the worst case scenarios for any proposed solution.  The objectives of the Black Hat are:

•    Identification of negative outcomes and their consequences
•    Identification of flawed or weakly-supported contingency plans
•    Consideration of inadequate resources
•    Elimination of pitfalls and non-beneficial ideas

Questions asked from a Black Hat’s perspective are:

1.    What is a serious flaw of this recommendation?
2.    What is a major drawback to this way of thinking?
3.    What are the odds of failure?
4.    What could be potential worst-case scenarios?
5.    Are necessary recovery resources in place?

 

 

 

Yellow Hat: 

Members who are working on the problem under the Yellow Hat need to bring forward optimistic ideas which may provide opportunities for success.  The objectives of this division are:

•    Identification of benefits of recommendations
•    Evaluation of opportunities within proposed solutions
•    Assessment of good-case scenarios
•    Assessment of feasibility of recommendations
•    Promotion of enthusiasm and motivation

Questions asked from a Yellow Hat’s perspective are:

1.    What is the best way to approach the issue?
2.    What is a reasonable and realistic way to make things work?
3.    What are the positive outcomes of each idea?
4.    What are the long-term benefits of each action?

 

 

 

Green Hat: 

Members who are working on the problem under the Green Hat need to vision the problem in a new, open and unrestricted way, in order to generate creative and unusual ideas.  The objectives of the Green Hat problem solving approach are:

•    Promotion of expanded and elaborate thinking
•    Application of extended rules (beyond reality restrictions)
•    Envision of creative and non-habitual solutions
•    Consideration of new perspectives

Questions asked from a Green Hat’s perspective are:

1.    What alternative solutions are possible?
2.    Could a recommendation be done in another way?
3.    What is an unusually unique way of looking at the issue?
4.    What would constitute “outside-the-box” thinking in this case?
5.    What if…?

 

 

 

Blue Hat: 

Members who are working on the problem under the Blue Hat need to maintain focus.  They act as arbitrators between divisions, directors of the problem solving process, and coordinators of the group.  The objectives of the Blue Hat are:

•    Maximization of efficiency and effectiveness of thinking
•    Facilitation and direction of the thinking process
•    Determination of agenda, goals, and responsibilities
•    Organization of ideas and recommendations

Questions asked from a Blue Hat’s perspective are:

1.    What is the best way to define the actual problem?
2.    What are the goals?
3.    What are the desired outcomes of the solution-seeking process?
4.    What is the most effective way of moving forward?
5.    What is the optimal way out of the current circumstances?

 

 

Types and structure of Groups

The Six Thinking Hats technique can be used effectively in group meetings, as it provides a way of understanding and accepting different thinking styles that people approach problem solving with.  
You can use Six Thinking Hats with other persons or on your own. When it is being used among groups it has the benefit of defusing the disagreements that can happen when people with different thinking styles discuss the same problem. There is no a specific number of participators needed. Of course if there are six (1 blue hat and the other 5 hats) or eleven (1blue hat and the other 10 divided into couples for representing the 5 hats) etc. then the division into the Hats groups and the role playing is easier. The role (type of hat) that are given to each participant, even if it doesn’t reflect their opinion, is not far beyond simple thinking, since the hat drives thinking to a specific point of view than vague thoughts around the problem.
Usually the order of thinking would transition in the following manner:


 
Several proposals have been made for changing the specific flow and replacing or excluding types of hats. These alterations of the De Bonos’s initial proposed flow are more problem oriented. For example when the problem is Strategic Planning a proposed flow could be: Blue, Yellow, Black, White, Blue, Green, Blue (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Bono_Hats). Of course these flows need further evaluation.

 

Consequences

There are several theoretical reasons of why should someone use the Six Thinking Hats technique. The key point that is behind each hat is that the motive that each colored hat gives to the participant of that process is that a hat is a direction to think rather than a label for thinking. By this point the Six Thinking Hats technique encourages parallel thinking as well as full-spectrum thinking. Additionally this technique separates ego from performance (http://www.mycoted.com/Six_Thinking_Hats)

Related Patterns

•    FACILITATOR [1], WELL-CHOSEN RESOURCES [2]

Examples

•    MindTools: “Directors of a property company”
•    the MiddleWeb Listserv: “moving to a new city”
•    Six Thinking Hats Testimonials
•    Six Thinking Hats as Applied in Six Sigma by Tata Consultancy Services

References

•    De Bono, E. (1992), Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas, Harper Collins, New York, NY.
•    IQ Matrix: 6 Thinking Hats: Solving Life’s Complex Problems
•    MindTools: Six Thinking Hats, Looking at a Decision from All Points of View
•    the MiddleWeb Listserv: Turn a Sad Goodbye into a "Problemtunity"

Related Patterns Thumbnails

[1] NAME: FACILITATOR
The FACILITATOR is enriching discussions by generating cognitive conflicts. The role of the facilitator is to potentially enhancing the learning outcomes of collaboration.

[2] NAME: WELL-CHOSEN RESOURCES
During a discussion it is essential to guide stakeholders giving them accurate and exact resources in order to produce fruitful ideas.
 

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