Monday, May 13, 2013

Six Hats Thinking, its analysis and practically used example

We have heard and read a lot about Dr. Edward de Bono's Six Hats Thinking process and must be worrying how we can use it in our day to day business decision making process. Here is the introduction and a real business scenario example I used in one of such critical decision making process.
Please read and share. Your comments are welcome.

Dr Edward de Bono introduced a simple, but powerful technique called the Six Thinking Hats. The technique outlines different thinking styles that are associated with a different coloured hat. This parallel thinking approach forces each of the participants in a team meeting or focus group to adopt the particular thinking style represented by each coloured hat. By conceptualizing each type of hat, the person focuses on the style of thinking associated with each colour. For example, when wearing the RED hat a person will state what he or she feels about a particular situation. Wearing the YELLOW hat compels people to think about the positive aspects of a topic or situation, while the GREEN hat encourages people to adopt a creative thinking focus. The Six Thinking Hats encourage even the most pessimistic or negative people to think of the positive outcomes of a given situation. By adopting the Six Thinking Hats technique in meetings or problem solving sessions, participants have found that they achieve a number of outcomes, including:

1.         Efficient meetings where meeting time is cut by one to two thirds of traditional meetings
2.         Productive meetings with solid outcomes generated from different thinking styles that can be explored further
3.         Quickly identifying alternative solutions to problems
4.         Effective thinking techniques where participants experience different perspectives using parallel thinking

A summary of each hat is outlined in the Figure below:
The key factor in successfully using the Six Thinking Hats and applying them in a practical situation is to better understand the sequence that the hats are used. The following diagram shows a typical sequence when using the Six Thinking Hats and applying them in a practical setting or meeting.
When considering a specific problem or topic it is best to start with the WHITE hat as this allows all the background information to be presented and documented. Once the problem or topic is fully defined then the RED hat is used to ask participants how they feel about the problem or situation. Participants’ feelings are documented. The general tendency for a proportion of people in a meeting, at this stage, is to present the negative aspects of the problem or situation, however in this process the next step is to use the YELLOW hat to capture the positive aspects of the problem or situation from all participants. This step is then followed with the BLACK hat when everyone considers the negative aspects of the problem or situation. The BLACK hat is then followed by the GREEN hat where everyone is encouraged to use creative thinking to overcome the negative issues but also develop new alternatives to solving the problems or resolving the situation. The RED hat is used again at this stage to gauge the feelings of participants. Generally, most participants who were previously concerned about the problem or situation would now be feeling more positive after having gone through the process of using the different hats. Finally, it is always appropriate to use the BLUE hat as this allows participants to evaluate whether the process has offered solutions or conclusions. The BLUE hat also provides process control to ensure the right technique or approach was used by participants. If a solution or resolution was not identified then another approach or process would be suggested as more appropriate in solving the problem.
Add your comments on whether you have found the Six Thinking Hats effective in your business and personal life.

When we take certain decision about important things in our life, it does not become easy to come to final and constructive conclusion.  If we look into our usual (Indian) approach of communication and thinking, it is usually not lateral, opposing and does not involve co-operation. Especially when an individual or team decision need to be taken- it should be collaborative, supportive, 360 degree thinking, understanding from all angle and then taking decision.
I have found the six hats thinking extremely useful in decision making process in my life (both personal and professional) too.

Let us take an example: I had to take a decision about hiring a candidate for a mid- size position in a strategic role. We  had not decide the budget, designation for the position. The question was- Should we stick to budget (say 12 Lakhs p.a.) for the position or should we keep it open and focus on the skill set we require. We  had 2 options:

1.      Decide the budget and should not spend +/- lakh per annum on the compensation irrespective of the skill set. If we do not get at least 80% of the required skill set too, we should settle down for a lower skill set, let us train the individual and save the cost.
2.      We had another option – Not to bother too much about the cost. This is being a new position and one of the rare skill set, it is more important for us to have the person from similar industry, similar role and similar skill set. This will save our money for the long run and may turn a good decision too.

Here is the outcome
A.     Traditional thinking process
1.      Simply do not stick to the budget, increase it and hire the person with right skill set as it is rare, need years of experience to hone the skill. It may cost us double, but the benefit will be great.
2.      Hiring a person with similar industry but without required skill set experience may be a cost saving decision but let us not take that risk completely and take it as another option only.
3.      More we delay, we will incur more direct and indirect cost.

B.     Six Thinking Hats process
We designed team of compromising of top management, head of the department and head of the Human Resources and used the technique and got above outcome.  Details of the same process is as follows:
Colour of hats
Option 1: Hire less experienced person with less skill set than the required.
Option 2: Hire person with the similar industry experience with similar skill set without worrying about cost in terms of the compensation.
objective facts & figures
The other individual in same department is drawing much lesser salary with little bit of the required skill set. We cannot disturb the existing team at the cost of a new team member.
Our need is to strategically put our organisation in advantageous position. With the changes happening in the business environment, it is necessary to have person with the required skill set. If we will delay, they the cost incurring in the future may be very high. It is better to bear little cost extra this time. We are ready to pay extra for the skill set, not for the number of year of experience and to the individual.
emotions & feelings
It seems undervaluing the existing team.
It is about having the right person at right role and to protect company’s interest.  
cautious & careful
Even if we pay the higher remuneration, we are not sure the person with required skill set may perform. It is better to play safe and not to increase the decided compensation for the said position.  
Risk is everywhere. What if we hire a wrong person without the skill set and after learning it here, in our organization, if he/ she leave and join other organization? The cost of hiring a new person will be much higher than taking this risk.  
hope, positive & speculative
It will keep the department at safe, lower attrition. We have excellent work culture and nobody will leave the organization so easily.  
We can utilize the time spend on training a lesser experienced person to build strategy by hiring a person with higher compensation with the skill set that person already having. This new incumbent will keep us on a very advantageous position.  
creativity, ideas & lateral thinking
Hiring a lesser experienced is good so we can mould him/ her according to our need.  
The person with required skill set is already comfortable in the skill set hence there is lesser chances of job dissatisfaction. Still, even if he/she is unhappy, we may enrich his/ her job.  
control & organization of thinking
We have that much budget so better to stick to it.  
It does not matter. We have to plan for future not for present. Although we will incur higher cost, may be double but for us guarding organization against the expected business environment change is much more important.

If you see the above example, the six hats thinking process helps to take a decision that suits best.

I may publish other relevant example too. Please ask your queries and share your such experiences. 

For further reading:

Thanks to
My Friend Menka

1 comment:

  1. "If you see the above example, the six hats thinking process helps to take a decision that suits best."... sorry but I don't see how that example above suggests what "suits best". Is there a weighing system? How are you determining what suits best from the text? Can you explain further? Thank you.


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