Change Implementation Techniques for Forming Transitional Team, Creating Alignment, Maximizing Connectedness and Creativity

Technique 6.15 Six Hats

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The six hats program is a thinking structure designed to give a comprehensive exploration of the subject, rather than a program of separate techniques, such as CoRT. It has been described

" the constructive, role-playing, non-adversarial way forward......designed to be applied to conflict situations and to the creation of new ideas. Six hats lays down six sorts of thinking to be engaged, one at a time.........the hat is put on, but a signal that a person or group is about to direct attention towards the matter in hand from one of six points of view. Black-hat thinking gives carte blanche to tear an idea to shreds, but the essence of six hats is objectivity and there is no place for emotion under the black hat. Personal feelings can only be expressed under the red hat. Whatever may be said..negative auspices of the black hat can have nothing to do with feelings and may end up not bearing much of the decision at all. Everyone must contribute under each hat, and under the blue hat (managing the thinking process) there is skill in drawing an appropriate order of hats for a particular purpose.......The six hats programme is designed to remove what he (deBono) refers to as the main restriction on thinking - ego defense......if you are against an idea you are not going to look at it closely; if you are enthusiastic you may be insufficiently cautious......but then when the yellow hat comes around you are expected to look for value..."

Piers Dudgeon, 2001

One of the main aims of the six coloured hats (white, red, black, yellow, green and blue) is to align participants in the discussion so that they are all looking in the same direction at any one time. It is essential that everyone is wearing the same hat at the same time.

The reason hats are used as a metaphor is that hats are associated with thinking, ie put on your thinking hats, I'm wearing my parent's hat, etc

The six hats strategy involves creative thinking rather than critical thinking. Critical thinking emphasizes observation, classification, analysis and judgment. Analysis - the division of something into its constituent parts - is useless for creating anything. Furthermore, in creativity there is a need to suspend judgment as judgment involves recognizing, identifying, locating and keeping thinking confined within known patterns. It is further claimed that the case study method of teaching does not encourage thinking skills as it involves analysis and a reductionist approach that is not operational and holistic.

Integral to the six hats approach is the possibility of moving forward in perception. This movement is paramount and involves a metaphorical change of gears, used to skip across patterns and to find alternatives to the people's views, and new possibilities and undreamt ideas.

"...Everything flows from designer thinking, ie there is no right or wrong, only ways to be right and ways to be wrong. There are no automatic value labels for facts and opinions, which ignore circumstances; only constant allegiance to real world thinking, and then aversion to absolutist, fundamentalist, boxed-up thinking, which inhibits opportunity and has led, on a global scale, to all sorts of conflict..."

Piers Dudgeon, 2001

The idea of the six hats is for participants to build up a thinking map of the matter in hand rather than have the participants come to a meeting with set proposals to put to the meeting. These facts should enrich the understanding of a situation and help suggest a route through.

Reaching a solution via the six hats method does not depend upon argumentation skills. Rather, the situation is explored from every point of view by all parties as one and at the same time. Furthermore, biases and prejudices must be scrutinized as keenly as the facts.

Colour of the hats

1. White

2. Red

3. Green

4. Black

5. Yellow

6. Blue

i) White Hat ‐ gather information

The white hat suggests paper and computer print-outs, etc. This involves presenting facts and figures, absolutely objectively and absolutely neutrally. There is no place for proposals, arguments or judgments, for extrapolation of figures into trends, for statistical analysis of any kind, for opinion, bias or emotion, for anything else other than the facts, plain and simple

Some useful questions for this hat are

- what do we know about this?

- what do we need to know?

- which are verifiable facts?

- which are merely believed facts?

- what data is missing?

- how do we find the facts, data, information, etc we need?

- what questions should we ask?

Furthermore, there are 2 types of questions that can be useful

i) fishing or open-ended questions (exploratory)

ii) hunting or closed questions (assessment-type, yes/no answers to questions)

Information can range from hard facts (which can be checked) to rumours and/or personal experience. Furthermore,

"...every person involved is now making a full effort to explore the subject and to lay out information available and information needed. It is no longer a matter of only looking for the information that fits your point of view and your case..."

Edward deBono, 2005

ii) Red Hat ‐ emotion, feelings, intuition, "gut feeling", etc

The red hat refers to fire and warmth.

The situation under the red hat can be handled in 2 ways, ie express true feelings or offer an intuition/gut feeling. An intuition may be a sudden insight or a judgment based on experience or hunches.

Sometimes the red hat is used at the start of the meeting so that people can vent their feelings early.

The feelings need not be logical, and there is no need for justification or substantiation of thoughts/feelings.

This is a very important hat as in thinking your feelings and emotions are expected to be excluded. On the other hand, emotions do come in, even though they will be disguised as logic. So emotions will invariably influence the thinking offered.

The red hat legitimises emotions and give them a formal place in the discussions, ie

"...- I do not like this idea at all

- my feeling is that is simply will not work

- my intuition is that raising the price will destroy the market

- my gut feeling is that this is highly dangerous

- I feel it is a waste of time..."

Edward deBono, 2005

Intuition can be based on experience in the field. For instance.

"...- my intuition is that she is the right person for the job

- my intuition is that the costs of this project will escalate rapidly

- my intuition is that there are internal office politics behind that decision

- my intuition is that the economy will start to turn up in the next quarter..."

Edward deBono, 2005

Intuition is a complex judgment and is based upon personal experience and thinking that is not always right. Participants are not always aware of all the components that make up a judgment on intuition. Sometimes decisions have to be made on intuition because there is no other way to check things out

iii) Green Hat ‐ creative thinking, ie creating and developing ideas, alternatives, possibilities and designs

The green hat is the productive, generative and creative hat that looks for ideas, alternatives, possibilities and designs

New ideas can range from the very logical to the side of fantasy. Sometimes the more extreme the ideas, the better they are at generating and provoking creativity in others

This hat involves possibilities and creative thinking by seeking alternatives, new ideas, ie move out of the normal thinking box, and challenge orthodoxy, status quo thinking and your zone of comfort. Remember:

"...just as logical thinking is based on the behaviour of symbolic thinking (a particular universe), so lateral thinking is based on the behaviour patterning systems (also a particular universe)..."

Edward deBono as quoted by Piers Dudgeon, 2001

Some useful questions

- What are the alternatives, possibilities, etc?

- What else can happen?

- Are there some other alternatives, possibilities, designs, etc we haven't looked at yet?

- What are the other possible explanations?

- What are the less obvious alternatives, possibilities, etc?

- Can we generate new alternatives?

- What other choices might we have here?

- Let's have some fresh ideas on this?

iv) Black Hat ‐ critical appraisal, ie weaknesses, dangers and disadvantages

This hat involves objective, negative assessment or critical thinking (judgment thinking: is this right or is it wrong?) While the red hat allows subjective, personal response, the black hat allows only logical negativity

Generally, the black hat gets over-used. Criticism is a very powerful survival mechanism and needs to be kept in check

"...The basis of argument and western thinking in general is the black hat.. it is very much part of education. Since the purpose of education is to tell youngsters 'how the world really is', there is a need to let them know when they have got something wrong..."

Edward deBono, 2005

Some ways to explore this hat include

- it will not work for these reasons...

- it cannot be done because.., eg it is illegal

The black hat helps us from doing things that we should not do as they are wrong, illegal or dangerous. It provides caution and is like doing a risk assessment.

We ask ourselves: Does this fit? Does this fit our values, our resources, our strategy and objectives, our abilities, etc?

The black hat discourage us from doing things that we should not do as they are wrong, illegal or dangerous. It provides caution and is like doing a risk assessment.

The black hat can be used to check issues around ethics, governance, social/community and environmental responsibilities.

We ask ourselves: Does this fit? Does this fit our values, our resources, our strategy and objectives, our abilities, etc?

Remember: the black hat points out the dangers, faults and problems; that aspect does not make it a "bad" hat - it just ensures that aspects requiring caution are covered

Some of the useful ways the black hat is used include

" indicate a fault in logic (that does not follow.... to point out incorrect information; to point out faults and weaknesses; to point out why something does not fit; to point out the downside; to point out potential problems..."

Edward deBono, 2005

v) Yellow Hat ‐ positivity, optimism, benefits, advantages, good points, etc

Under the yellow hat we look for values, benefits and why something should work

This hat encourages the listing of benefits (including often hidden benefits), ie good points and reasons it is likely to work

This hat is supportive of an idea and gives reasons for that support

This involves "value sensitizing", ie a constructive attitude of mind that takes the ego out of the discussion and involves looking for benefits supported by logic

Value sensitivity means

- being sensitive to value; without this, creativity can be a waste of time.

- looking at something with the intention of finding positive value in it (we are too ready to find fault)

Under the yellow hat, major insights can happen, ie people suddenly see benefits that they never saw before

As all participants are supposed to be looking for benefits under this yellow hat, if someone has been very critical and can see no value in the idea but everyone else can, then that person will be seen to be blinkered or biased.

This is very different from argument or debate where little effort is made to find value in an idea that you do not support, ie

" argument you show off by winning arguments, by attacking the other point of view and defending your own. With parallel thinking you show off by performing better under every hat. So under the black hat you think of more cautious points than anyone else, and under the yellow hat you think of more value points than anyone else. In this way all the brain power available is seeking to explore the subject honestly and thoroughly. It is no longer a matter of making a case or winning an argument..."

Edward deBono, 2005

vi) Blue Hat ‐ overview and process control

The role of the blue hat is to organise the other hats and organise the thinking by

- defining the focus and purpose (What are we here for? What are we thinking about? What is the end goal?)

- laying out the sequence for utilising the hats (What is the sequence of hats to be used in this session? The blue hat can adjust the sequence, if required, during the session)

- pulling together, at the end of the session, the outcome, summary, the conclusion and the design, ie What have we achieved?

- making explicit the next step, ie What happens from now?

Focussing on the strategy or structure for discussing the job in hand involves

- guiding the thinking

- asking for conclusions

- Sometimes this job is assigned to one person in particular so that he/she encourages people

- to think about their thinking

- to plan their thinking at the start of the exercise

- to monitor thinking throughout the exercise

- to judge the finished product

This involves self-analysis and self-evaluation plus considering whether the full range of thinking strategies has been used

One way to use the blue hat is as a mind map (see later in this Volume)

NB The 6 hats can be used in any sequence; there is no correct sequence


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