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Decision Making | Diversity | Conflict Management | Six Thinking Hats

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Disagreeing and still listening? You’re on the way to making great decisions

Disagreeing and still listening? You’re on the way to making great decisions

by Moyra Mackie on October 25, 2013

You’re in a meeting and

a) everyone agrees, so you all come to a decision quite quickly.  It’s really a no-brainer.


b)  it seems as if everyone has a different view, the meeting drags on and eventually the boss has to make a decision.  He – or she – has the casting vote and in all likelihood votes the way he – or she – would have done before the meeting started.

Don’t you just love making decisions?

After all, isn’t that the point of meetings?  And which meeting process do you prefer?

I hope you said that neither was particularly appealing. Because I’ve got a better idea.

Try wearing a hat

The idea comes from thinking expert Edward De Bono – the man who gave the world the phrase “lateral thinking” aimed at improving group and individual decision making.

De Bono identified six thinking styles

And he assigned each one of them a different coloured hat.

There’s the optimist. The one who always sees the upside. Meet the Yellow Hat.

White Hat thinkers are the analytical types, making 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 thinking into conscious consideration.

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 those rubber stamp or sticky meeting scenarios we’re all familiar with. It’s a very good way of making sure you’re taking into account a full range of different perspectives.

Different ways of seeing and thinking is the true definition of diversity

The financial crisis is not the only example of group think.  Although it’s still amazing to imagine all those clever people thinking assets can only go up in price and not down!

Boy, could those boardrooms have done with some thinking hats

But I still regularly encounter groups of people all wearing the same colour hats telling me something is a “no-brainer.”

Or I have a client telling me that one of their team is “difficult” or “not on the same page.”

This is usually code for “they’re not wearing the same hat as we are.”

I know we like to have people agree with us, think the same way as us, nod when we make suggestions.

But wise decisions are a result of confrontation and challenge, not quick agreement

Diversity comes in a lot of different guises, but the underlying one is priorities.  If you find yourself in a room full of people that look like you, you’re in more need of the hats than if you’re in a room of men AND women of different backgrounds and ethnicities.

But in either case, the next time you are stuck in a meeting where you might want to make a real decision, try on a hat.

Want to make a safe bet? Choose the Green Hat.

It’s not that I’m biased or anything, but there’s a reason I’m a coach with a green hat. It’s the hat associated with agenda-free questioning, with exploring new ways of looking at things, with learning and with change. Particularly the change that is most important.  Changing your fixed mindset.

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.


PS. This is a green article in more ways than recommending a Green Hat.  It has been re-purposed and re-cycled from an earlier article back in February when I was a greenhorn blogger.  Your comments on my learning since then, fearfully and gratefully received!

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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