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Decision Making | Six Thinking Hats | High Performing Teams

Conversations about leadership, learning, coaching and change.

Making heavy weather of decisions? Wear a thinking hat.

Making heavy weather of decisions? Wear a thinking hat.

by Moyra Mackie on February 3, 2013

You make decisions. It’s what decision makers do. But do the real thorny problems that you are given to sort out sometimes send your thoughts spinning like the wheels of a sports car in the snow?

It’s not about lack of intellectual horsepower. You’re probably applying too much, rather than too little.

It’s not that you have too few ideas. You may have too many, all at the same time.

It’s just that you’re not able to get traction and make your usual progress.

Sometimes there are so many different opinions to take into account and so many good ideas to think through that it can be like having a rowdy boardroom between your ears. And with a pretty ineffective chairman, too.

So if you’re making heavy weather of decisions, I’ve got a suggestion that most definitely works.

Try wearing a hat.

In a hurry? Download a handy PDF now

The idea comes from thinking expert Edward De Bono – the man who gave the world the phrase “lateral thinking”. He’s got a neat little step-by-step process that can unravel chaotic spaghetti thinking and improve your decision making.

De Bono identified six thinking styles. You may well recognise them from the meetings you’ve been in and the people you work with. And he assigned each one of them a different coloured hat.

There’s the optimist. The one who always sees the upside. De Bono gave the optimist a bright, sunny Yellow Hat.

White Hat thinkers are the analytical types. They make decisions based on the available data. Logically, they think, there’s no other way.

Cautious types wear the Black Hat. They tend to look for reasons why things might go wrong. If there’s a weak point in your plan, they’re the ones who’ll help you find it.

The people in the Red Hats use their intuition and feelings to make decisions. They often rely on gut instinct and hunches.

Green is the colour of creativity. It’s a free-form way of thinking. Green Hat thinkers will seldom criticise and they’re great people to have around when you want a new solution for an old problem.

Blue Hat thinkers are process-orientated and systematic. They like things to run smoothly. It’s generally a good thing if the person chairing your meeting is wearing a blue hat.

What De Bono’s hats do is give you a way – a structured process – to bring different aspects of your thinking into conscious consideration.

In your head, you can imagine donning the hats, one by one, to look at different aspects of a problem. In group sessions, usually run by a qualified facilitator, the process may literally involve people putting on coloured hats when they are adopting particular roles.

We all have a natural or predominant thinking style. As you have probably realised, I’m a natural Green Hat Thinker. But I use Edward De Bono’s process to deliberately adopt different thinking styles, so I can look at problems from various angles and make better decisions.

The Six Thinking Hat process can be used for decisions in your personal life, as well as in the boardroom (where it’s a great little tool for creating orderly, open-minded parallel thinking, rather than argument and conflict). It’s a very good way of making sure you’re taking into account a full range of different perspectives.

Advanced users know that different situations may mean wearing the thinking hats in different colour sequences. But, as you’ve probably already guessed, the process should usually begin and end with Blue Hat thinking.

I have a full set of De Bono hats. I’ve got them right here, and I know how to use them. If you’re out in the cold, slipping and sliding around, you’re very welcome to come in and try them on.

If you want to know more about how to come to wise, robust decisions, click and download here Try it out with your team and a live business problem and tell me how it works for you.

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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