A Simple System That Reduces Conflict and Focuses Minds

By Heather Campbell

Six Thinking Hats

Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats has been around a long time now and, in my experience of facilitating tough team discussions, its longevity is well deserved. If you aren’t familiar with it, I’d recommend you give it a try the next time you take part in a discussion where different viewpoints are likely to lead to conflict.

The Six Thinking Hats is a structured system of (literal or metaphorical) coloured hats. Putting on a ‘hat’ of a certain colour gets everyone in the conversation to look at a situation from the same perspective at the same time. For example, when everyone wears the White Hat, the focus is purely on facts about the situation, the Yellow Hat emphasises the positive, while the Black Hat allows focus on the downsides.

Getting everyone to discuss a situation or proposal from the same angle at the same time is extremely productive. The discussion develops without that awful experience of point-scoring or ‘Yes…butting’ that characterises so many workplace meetings.

And yet at the same time, the situation is discussed in more detail and critiqued more fully than is usually the case. People become palpably more relaxed because they know that they can speak without fear of attack, and more accepting of others’ points of view because they know that all angles will be examined.

The technique is easy to learn and, while the ‘hats’ metaphor is not one that appeals to everyone, the underlying concept gets superior results in terms of creativity, morale, team dynamics and performance.

Have you tried De Bono’s six hats or other thinking systems? Leave a comment and tell me what you think.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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