Most of us have heard that if we have a problem, we should put on our thinking hat. Oak Hill Academy eighth graders have found out that there are actually six hats that we can use to diagnose, analyze, and systematically find possible solutions to difficulties we find in business, school, or in life.
The system used is a step-by-step process formulated by Edward DeBono in his Six Thinking Hats. This method is effective for team meetings, problem solving, and decision-making. It is a method that can be used in business, schools, and with families. Major organizations using Six Thinking Hats include NASA, IBM, Microsoft, Federal Express, DuPont, and Prudential Insurance. Six different color imaginary hats identify the type or direction of thinking. The main idea is to have the group “wear only one hat at a time.”
- The White Hat’s thinking is neutral and wants objective information; looks for facts, figures, and data; removes feelings and impressions; excludes one’s own opinion. Questions asked would include: What information/facts do we know? What information is missing? What is relevant?
- Red Hat’s thinking is all about emotions – how feelings influence thinking. It uses hunches, intuition, and impressions. It doesn’t have to be logical or consistent. Questions asked would include: How do I feel about this right now? How am I reacting to this?
- Black Hat’s thinking is cautious and careful. It focuses on errors, worst-case scenarios, why it won’t work – negative thinking.
- Yellow Hat’s thinking is optimistic and positive. It looks at benefits and best-case scenarios. Why will this idea work? Is it worth doing? How will it help us?
- Green Hat’s thinking is concentrates on a deliberate creation of new ideas and new approaches. It looks for alternatives and more alternatives. What are some of the possible ways to work this out? It uses out of the box thinking.
- Blue Hat’s thinking controls the thinking process and keeps things organized. It controls the sequence or use of other hats, bringing in discipline and focus.
Discussion is always started by the Blue Hat who asks: Why are we here? What are we thinking about? What do we want to achieve? This is the definition of the situation or problem. Then to discover the positive aspects and negative aspects to solve the problem, the following sequence is used.
▪Open with the Blue Hat ▪Use the Yellow Hat before the Black Hat. ▪Then the Green Hat (new ideas) and then the Red Hat (feelings). ▪Close with the Blue Hat gathering a consensus solution while concerning all hats.
The Oak Hill Academy eighth graders are given a real life problem that they were asked to supply a plan to solve using the Six Thinking Hats: Bob’s Bagel Shop is doing well; however, his landlord has just announced a $500/month increase in his rent, starting in two months. Leaving everything the same would deeply cut into his profits. The question was, “Should Bob try to make adjustments or would it be impossible for him to continue?” The student teams were given all of the facts of the business, including the cost of operation and the monthly income. They had to compute the possible shortfall and possible ways to make up the difference. Does he stay open longer hours? Does he charge more for his bagels? Does he introduce a larger menu? etc.
After doing all of the analysis, the team felt that a price increase would not work since the competition would be put in a better position. After much debate, the final plan included introducing new items to the inventory and looking for other possible customers, for instance, a local school cafeteria.
All in all, the students were confident that by using the Six Thinking Hats process, they would be able to save Bob’s Bagel Shop and possibly expand to other markets. The students felt that they were able to use creativity and the process in their future endeavors. Look for a Bob’s Bagel franchise someday!