One Idea Group Session from Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

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INTRODUCTION

This resource will help you to facilitate a short group session to learn from the One Idea Summary on ‘Six Thinking Hats’.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  • Be able to describe each of the Six Thinking Hats.
  • Be able to demonstrate how to use the Six Thinking Hats by writing questions for each hat.

PREPARATION

Send a copy of the One Idea Summary on ‘Six Thinking Hats’ to the participants at least one week before the session. Tell them to read it before coming and bring it with them to the session.

THE SESSION

Introduce the session (5-minutes)

Introduce the session by sharing the learning objectives with them.

Review the meeting preparation steps (15-minutes)

Put them into pairs and give each pair flipchart paper and pens.

Tell each pair to review what they read from the One Idea Summary about the Six Thinking Hats and write a summary of their understanding of it on the flipchart paper provided. The summary should provide a quick description of each hat. Give them 10-minutes to write their summaries.

After 10-minutes stop them. Allow each pair to present their summaries back to the whole group.

When they finish feeding back their summaries, appreciate them and move on to do an activity where they will have to write questions to use the Six Thinking Hats to review a new report project which the team has been given.

Activity – Exploring the new report with the Six Thinking Hats (30-minutes)

Tell them that, ‘next we are going to do a short activity that will introduce us to using the Six Thinking Hats.’ To set up the activity split them into smaller teams. Each team should have no more than four people. Make sure each team has adequate flipchart paper and pens. Next read the information below to them. Tell them to write it down.

  • Brenda’s team has just been instructed to start producing a new management report on a monthly basis. Brenda is not happy about producing the report neither are her team. But they want to explore all angles of the report using the Six Thinking Hats approach.
  • In your group write at least one question that the Brenda who is wearing the blue hat can ask to explore the management report from the different perspectives that the hats focus on.
  • Also discuss and answer these questions, how should Brenda open the session? What can she say when wants to switch from one thinking hat to another?

Give them 15 minutes for the activity and ensure they write their answers on the flipchart paper provided.

After 15-minutes stop them. Allow each team to present their answers and listen to them without commenting. When they finish presenting, thank them for doing the work and present them to some sample answers from Brenda and her team.

It is a lot of information so having a printout they can read or emailing it to them is more appropriate, but you may have to read it.

Brenda: Introduces the session by telling them that, ‘our aim in this session is to explore the new report we have been told to produce to understand the best way to approach it. I will be using a technique called the Six Thinking Hats which will allow us to explore the report from different perspectives, focusing on one perspective at a time. I will be wearing the blue hat which is the facilitator’s hat. The first hat you are going to put on is the white hat. This hat deals mainly with facts and figures, so we want to look at any facts and figures you have about the report. What do we already know about this report?

Team answers: It is for the leadership team, it is to be produced monthly, it requires data from two other departments, it is currently produced by the marketing team.

Brenda: Now take of your white hats and put on a red hat. The red hat deals with the emotional perspective, in other words feelings. What are your feelings about our team producing this monthly report?

Team answers: It’s too much extra work, marketing should be doing it not us, it’s not fair, I’m not happy about it.

Brenda: I can see we have very strong feelings about the report and for the most part I agree with you. But we can’t avoid it.  So, I want you to put on a green hat. The green hat is about creativity and innovation and coming up with solutions and ideas. We need to think about the best ways to create this report to give the leadership team what they want and at the same time not be a burden on us. What do you think is the best way to produce this report in the least time yet with an excellent result?

Team answers: Ask marketing to show us how they did it, find a way to automate it, create a template that we can use all the time.

Brenda: Those are some good ideas and after this session we will draw up an action plan on what to do but I want you to take off your green hat and put on a black hat. This is the hat of caution where we look at potential challenges or weaknesses related to an issue or idea. Look at the ideas you presented and think about what their weaknesses may be.

Team answers: Marketing may not want to help us, Marketing may not have time to help us, their process may not be the right process for us, we may not have the skills to do the report, automation or creating a template may be too complicated.

Brenda: Thank you for that. It gives us something to think about. Let’s switch quickly back to the green hat. I want us to think about how we can deal with some of the challenges identified with the black hat. What can we do about them?

Team answers: Ask marketing director for her support, ask marketing to do a single training session for us so we don’t take much of their time, attend some training on using the required software for creating the report, buy a template we can use.

Brenda: Thanks, so we do have some options. We can evaluate them a bit more later. Let’s wear one final hat which is the yellow hat. The yellow hat allows us to look at the positive perspective of an issue. What are the positives of this report project for us?

Team answers: Opportunity to learn something new, working with marketing for the first time, involved in a project crucial to the leadership team, development opportunities.

Brenda: Thanks for that, we’ve covered all bases and have some ideas to move forward. Next, we will create an action plan that will help us to create the report by the end of next month which is the first time we need to do it.

After going through the example with them, get them to do one more quick activity.

Using the Six Hats for your own thinking

Tell them that, ‘we’ve discussed how useful the Six Hats are for group meetings, but they are also great for structuring our own individual thinking. Especially when you want to reflect on a really important issue. Let’s do a quick exercise where you apply the Six Hat’s to your own thinking.’

Tell them to:

  • Think about an important issue that they want to reflect on. It maybe an issue where they want to make a decision or a problem they need to solve.
  • They should write the issue down.
  • Next start with white hat thinking and ask them to think about any facts and figures related to the issues. For example, it may be that they want to learn a new skill and they don’t have enough money to pay for the training.
  • Next move on to red hat thinking and ask for their feelings about the issue. For example, sad and anxious that they can’t pay for the training right now.
  • Tell them to switch hats to do some green hat thinking for possible ideas that may be viable solutions. For example, in the meantime look for free online courses and videos to start learning the skill till you can pay for the training.
  • Switch to the yellow hat and ask for any positives related to the issue. For example, thinking about it has given you an interim plan to work on learning the skill instead of focusing on the fact that you can’t pay for it now.
  • Finally ask if there are any areas of caution or challenges using the black hat. For example, to start learning with free learning resources, you must be self-directed and therefore disciplined to do the learning and that can be challenging. But from a yellow heart perspective you are highly motivated.

After going through the exercise, ask for anyone of them that wants to share any of their individual thinking from using the hats. While this is voluntary, encourage them to share so they can learn from each other. Appreciate anyone that shares and then move on to review and close the session.

REVIEW AND CLOSE

To review the session, tell them that, ‘during this session our objectives were to be able to describe the Six Thinking Hats and demonstrate how to use them. To achieve the objectives, we reviewed the one idea summary, did a group activity writing questions for the hats, reviewed an example where the hats were used and also did some individual thinking with the hats. What now remains is for you to practice using them in real life. Find opportunities to use them, even if you don’t use all the hats at the same time.’ You can put on individual hats to prompt you to think about something from a specific perspective.’

After telling them that, thank them for their participation and close the session.

Book Review – Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

six-thinking-hatsSix Thinking Hats is an old book that teaches a technique that will never grow old. The book was first published in 1985, but the lessons it teaches are timeless. In the book Edward de Bono teaches about how to run meetings for solving problems, making decisions and looking for ideas using a simple technique called the Six Thinking Hats.

This technique consists of 6 different hats that allow us to look at an issue from 5 varying perspectives and one hat for the person who will be facilitating the meeting. The book is structured in a logical way that first introduces us to the purpose of the six hats and then gives an in-depth explanation of each hat.

The hats themselves are based on different colours to distinguish their different functions. The book describes each hat as follows:

  • White Hat: White is neutral and objective, this hat deals with facts and figures.
  • Red Hat: Red suggests anger (seeing red), rage and emotions. The red hat explores the emotional view.
  • Black Hat: Black is sombre and serious. The black hat is careful and cautious. It points out the weakness in an idea.
  • Yellow Hat: Yellow is sunny and positive. The yellow hat is optimistic and covers hope and positive thinking.
  • Green Hat: Green is grass, vegetation, abundant and fertile growth. The green hat indicates creativity and new ideas.
  • Blue Hat: Blue hat is cool, and it is also the colour of the sky, which is above everything else. The blue hat is concerned with control, the organisation of the thinking process and the use of the other hats.

Following is a review of each chapter in the book.

Chapter one – Introduction

Introduces why the hats are effective and useful. De Bono uses a lot of metaphors in this chapter to describe the power of using the six hats.

Chapter two – Six hats, six colours

In this chapter the six hats, their colours and what they stand for are introduced.

Chapter three – Using the hats

How to use the hats is the subject of this chapter. Four ways to use the hats are described, which are:

  1. Single use: Where the hats are used to request a particular way of thinking.
  2. Sequential use: The hats are used one after the other in a sequence.
  3. Group and individual: The hats may be used to facilitate thinking during a group session. Also, an individual can use the hats to structure their own thinking.
  4. Individuals in groups: In a group meeting, individuals can use the hats to structure their own personal thinking.

Chapters 4 – 42

These chapters form the main bulk of the book and they describe in detail how to use all the hats. You will read about:

  • How to use each hat
  • How not to use each hat
  • Examples of the hat in use
  • The type of results you should expect from using each hat
  • Types of questions you can ask for each hat

Since the blue hat is different to the other 5 hats, the chapters on this hat show us how to use it to facilitate thinking with the other hats. There are lots of sample statements and illustrations given to show us how to use it effectively.

A great feature of each chapter is the summary chapters which appear at the end of the group of chapters describing each hat. Each summary chapter gives a good overview of the hat and you can read it quickly to get a top-level understanding of the functions and uses of each hat.

Chapter 43 – Benefits of the Six Hats Method

We all want to know the benefits of techniques before we invest time in learning and using them. This chapter solves that problem by summarising what the benefits of using the six thinking hats are. The key benefit described is related to how they help to make decisions. De Bono put it this way:

“In practice, one of the most striking things about the use of the Six Hats method is that decisions seem to make themselves. When you come to the final blue hat, the decision is often obvious to everyone present. This seems hard to believe in theory but happens often in practice.”

The book ends with a conclusion, which reminds us of the purposes of the six thinking hats:

  1. simplify thinking by allowing the thinker to deal with one thing at a time, and
  2. switch thinking, for example the hats can be used to get people to move away from negative thinking to more positive thinking.

This is not a big book, but it gives a very good grounding on the subject it’s teaching, in this case the Six Thinking Hats. You will come away from reading this book ready to give the Six Thinking Hats a try. I certainly did that. Also remember, you don’t have to be an expert to use the technique, the benefits of being able to focus on one perspective at a time and the practice of switching how you are thinking using the hats are immense advantages whether for your own individual thinking or a group session.

 

Book Review – Action Learning For Change By Lynne Butler and Nigel Leach

Action Learning For managersAction learning has been an approach I admired for a long time and three years ago I trained to become an action learning practitioner and even got to use it as part of a leadership development programme. Action Learning For Change, which I first read about four years ago and I’m now reading again is one of those books that inspired me to take on action learning. The reason being, the book describes a simple approach to implementing action learning which almost anyone can understand and I like simple. In my opinion Lynee and Nigel have done a brilliant job to make action learning an accessible practice.

About the book, though it covers 220 pages you can read it in a couple of hours and even though the entire book is written in black and white, it’s very visually appealing. It uses a good balance of quotes, bullet points, case studies, tables, diagrams and images. Each chapter is broken into small sections which are easy to digest so reading it won’t feel like a chore. Continue reading

Quotes from Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

six-thinking-hatsI previously reviewed Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono . You can read the review here. Here are 10 quotes from the book.

  1. Instead of judging our way forward, we need to design our way forward. We need to be thinking about ‘what can be’, not just ‘what is’.
  2. Thinking is the ultimate human resource. Yet we can never be satisfied with our most important skill. No matter how good we become, we should always want to be better.
  3. The main difficulty of thinking is confusion. We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope, and creativity all crowd in on us.
  4. A thinking system based on argument is excellent just as the front left wheel of a car is excellent. There is nothing wrong with it at all. But it is not sufficient.
  5. White hat energy is directed at seeking and laying out information.
  6. Red hat thinking is all about emotions and feelings and the non-rational aspects of thinking. The red hat provides a formal and defined channel for bringing these things out into the open.
  7. The black hat is the ‘natural’ hat of the Western thinking traction. With the black hat we point out what is wrong, what does not fit, and what will not work.
  8. Yellow hat thinking probes and explores for value and benefit.
  9. The green hat is the energy hat. Think of vegetation. Think of growth. Think of new leaves and branches. The green hat is the creative hat.
  10. The blue hat is like the conductor of the orchestra. The conductor gets the best out of the orchestra by seeing that what should be done is done at the right time. The blue hat is for the management of thinking. The blue hat is for the organization of thinking. The blue hat is for process control.