We all have personality traits that influence our ability to make choices in life.

Successful people generally think from a rational, positive viewpoint.  However, if they do not properly consider the emotional, creative or negative viewpoint, they may not be optimising their potential or more worryingly may resist change or underestimate the need for contingency planning.

Six thinking hats is a management tool created by Edward de Bono that helps individuals with in teams to look at decisions from different perspectives.  Each hat represents a personality trait or viewpoint.

I’ll explain how it works with an example.  Imagine I am the MD of a manufacturing company and am considering stopping production of one of the products because it is failing to generate sufficient profits.

Wearing the white hat is my personal favourite; it brings out the accountant in me!  I review the data, analyse trends and look for gaps in the information that may lead to an incorrect decision.

Then I put on the red hat and think from my heart.  My intuition kicks in, playing against the facts, telling me to continue with the product and ride the storm.

The black hat makes me consider the options available very cautiously and highlights the weaknesses in the data.  What about the cost of redundancies?  What about our market position?  How will the rest of the business cope with the changes?

The blue hat steps in before things get too gloomy.  He controls the process and steers the group of thoughts towards a decision everyone is comfortable with.  He asks the yellow hat for an opinion.

Full of optimism the yellow hat focuses on the future.  Rather than look at historical data he has drawn up projected figures and suggests that should the line close the staff could be re-allocated, increasing production of a more profitable product.

Finally the green hat shakes things up with a few creative solutions to the problem.  He asks is the product a loss leader?  Would the product benefit from re-branding and a marketing campaign?  Have we reviewed our control systems to look for ways to make the product profitable?

Blue Hat asks black and yellow for their opinions on the new suggestions and so the process continues.

By wearing the six hats in turn, I have considered more than the numeric facts and hopefully will reach an informed decision that the team will embrace.

Conclusion

The key to this fairly simple technique does not lie in your ability to remember what colour hat represents which trait, but to learn to consider all of the different viewpoints.

We are all prone to thinking in a particular way, but is that the right way?

I challenge you to use it to your advantage, I believe you will become a more successful and considerate leader if you practice this technique.  What hat are you wearing today?

 

The information provided in this blog illustrates my opinions and experiences, it does not constitute advice and I do not accept responsibility for any actions taken or refrained from as a result of reading this post.

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