Juggle your thinking hats!
The six-hat technique is a creative tool that helps you arrive at sound decisions
Thinking Hats? Well, wearing thinking hats refers metaphorically to following different thinking styles. It is all about looking at issues, decisions and the effects of the decisions from different points of view. "By deliberately taking up different thinking hats (thinking styles), a person can get out of his conditioned or habitual way of thinking, turn his glance on issues he might not have otherwise taken into account, think out of the box and arrive at sound decisions," says Major Satyanarayanan, neuro-linguistic and behavioural trainer.
Edward de Bono, who evolved the thinking hats concept in 1985, identified six different thinking hats or six thinking styles white, red, yellow, green, black and blue. White Hat refers to thinking that focusses on objective facts and the data available, getting the facts required, learning from past reality, and making analytical decisions based on that. Green Hat thinking brings in creativity, and perhaps out-of-the-box solutions. Black Hat thinking is critical thinking; it looks at the negative and weak aspects of the issue, at what could go wrong with the decision and the plan and helps you figure out ways to eliminate the weak points and make your plan and decision fool-proof. Red Hat refers to thinking that is grounded on intuition and emotion. Yellow Hat thinking refers to the optimistic viewpoint and has the effect of keeping you charged up and sticking on to the decision. Blue Hat thinking is all about management, about directing your thoughts into the needed styles of thinking. And as Edward de Bono himself mentions in his book, "6 Thinking Hats", one thinking style is not necessarily better than another. All these hats complement each other.
The truth is, most human beings function with just a few of these thinking styles predominantly, either because of genetic reasons or because of conditioning. There are people who think rationally, leaving out creative thinking. This could exclude creative problem solving for these persons. There are others who think emotionally and intuitively, missing out on rational facets of thinking and consequently loose out on founding their decisions on a sound platform. Likewise, some people think optimistically (resulting in leaving out contingency planning to handle issues when things go wrong) while some others think on pessimistic lines. "On the other hand, when you employ the six hat technique, your decisions and plans will be strengthened with analytical effectiveness, intuition, contingency planning, optimism, creativity and wholesome thinking that can help you hit upon the best option/solution," says Major Satyanarayanan. He adds, "In any situation, it is difficult to get a `right' solution. Focus instead on the optimum solution".
The wonderful thing about the thinking hats is it helps naturally pessimistic thinkers to deliberately take a dose of optimism and vice versa. Whatever kind of a thinker you may be, once you don the six thinking hats, it can help you circumvent mistakes your personality is liable to make and make sure you arrive at the right decision. "In reality, the problem is not the problem at all, the problem is how we view the issue. With the six hats, a problem or an issue takes on new meanings altogether. Employing a creative tool like the six hat technique can be very effective in making the best of life," says psychiatrist S. Vijayakumar. "It can be applied to all aspects of life," he adds.
So you can wear the six thinking hats to your board meetings, while shopping, while dealing with your kids, at interpersonal relationships, and in just about any crucial and decisive stage of life. As an added spin off, roping in the six-hat technique in joint decisions taken by a group (and remember, even two people denote a group here) be it in a professional or personal context, can keep the decision making smooth and acceptable, as it de-individualises the decision.
How to use
And next, in what sequence does one try out these thinking hats? "You can't prescribe a cut and dry sequence, the situation determines the sequence," says Major Satyanarayanan, explaining, "if it is a relationship, for instance, the white hat would be too cold a hat to use. So, I would wear the red hat and then move on to the yellow hat, and then on to the green hat. If it is a non-emotional situation, I would slip into the white hat first (ascertain the facts), then move on to the yellow hat, then to the black hat, and finally check it against the red hat and see what my intuition says." But, a word of caution, though. As Dr. Vijayakumar puts it, "You cannot have a preset sequence because no two issues are the same and the sequence applicable in one issue may not be applicable elsewhere".
So, did you get hooked to the six-hat technique? Then, juggle your hats and master the knots and crosses that life throws up.
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