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Individual Creativity Exercise

Six Thinking Hats

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Brief description of creativity technique

The Six Thinking Hats is a role-playing model developed by Edward de Bono in 1986. Each hat represents a different lens or perspective on a particular issue and is an insightful activity that prevents narrow thinking. It serves as a team-based problem solving and brainstorming technique that can be used to explore problems through various perspectives in order to uncover options that might otherwise be overlooked. The basic concept of the six thinking hats is that in order to process information and to reach the best conclusions in problem-solving sessions, people need to look at issues from a variety of perspectives.

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Exercise for skills at the level of:

Individual

Leadership

Team

Organization

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Learning objectives of the exercise

As well as improving the quality of your decisions, the Six Thinking Hats technique has some other benefits to offer:

  • More organized thinking. You can be confident that you've considered every angle, and it helps you to weigh up the information you obtain efficiently and accurately.

  • Improved creativity. It gets you to step away from your default positions and approaches. And comparing or combining different perspectives can sometimes spark novel thoughts.

  • Better thinking skills. It's a great way to strengthen important skills such as curiosity and critical thinking.

  • Stronger interpersonal skills. It encourages you to practice listening, questioning and answering. So it can also make you more persuasive, better at spotting when others need support, and more confident to resolve conflicts when they arise.

 

Greater inclusivity in teams. It requires people to set aside any preconceptions and to focus on seeing things from the same perspective for a while. Debate still happens, but it's based on shared understanding – which can help everyone to feel included.

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Skills developed/enhanced by the exercise

Adaptability

Communication

Collaboration

Curiosity

Initiative

Leadership

Problem-solving

Self-discipline

Tolerance of ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity

Others, please specify

Attentiveness

Confidence

Critical Thinking

Divergent thinking skills

Inventiveness

Negotiating skills

Resilience

Strategic thinking

Visualisation

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Duration

In person: 1-2 hours

 

Online: 1-2 hours

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How many people are needed?

6-12 people

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Materials required

In person: whiteboard/flipchart/paper and markers, table, chairs, six thinking hats template, six hats

 

Online: six thinking hats template

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Instructions for conducting the exercise

Step 1.  List the questions that represent the hats


List a set of questions on the whiteboard to represent the hats.  You can do this either at the start of the meeting or when you hit a sticking spot.


Step 2.  Walkthrough each question as a team


Walkthrough each question as a team.  This is the key.  Rather than debating each other, you’re now collaborating. 


Step 3.  Modify the approach.


If it’s not working, change the approach.  For example, you might find that you started with the wrong “hat” or question.  See if switching to another question or hat makes a difference. 


This isn’t a heavy handed approach.  Instead, it’s a subtle shift in strategy from free-for-all debate to focusing and coordinating your team’s thinking power in a deliberate way. 


This lets everybody get heard as well as really bang on a problem from multiple angles in a teamwork sort of way.

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Case study from desk research

CASE STUDY
The directors of a non-profit wellness program are looking to expand their charter into the mental health arena. There is a severe shortage of services in their community and this continues to be an ongoing problem that they hope to reduce through leadership, education, and collaboration. As part of their decision they decide to use the 6 Thinking Hats technique during a planning meeting.

 

SOLUTION

Looking at the problem with the White Hat, they analyze the data they have. They examine the trends in the mental health field and within their community. Available information shows a huge gap in what's needed and what's available.

 

With Red Hat thinking, some of the directors simply aren't really excited about getting into the mental health area. It depresses them just talking about it. Others are extremely passionate about it. Most of the latter group have had mentally ill friends or family members and can empathize with their situations.

 

When they think with the Black Hat, they worry that the problem is just too big for their little program to be of much help. They're concerned that this new direction may jeopardize their success with their current customers in the mentally healthy population. Further, even though there is grant funding available, they are uncertain of their chances to attract it given the size of their fairly meager population of just over 25,000 people.