The 6 thinking hats – or how to have productive thinking

January 07, 2015
by Mariyan Yordanov * / edited and translated in English by Lachezara Prunarova **

Many people think that they are thinking, but actually they just think this is so. It seems everyone knows what it is, but the truth is – it remains an unknown topic. Saying this, there are several important facts to keep in mind:

1. The thinking process is autonomous. As a matter of fact we don’t think by ourselves, but established thinking models are recreated and we have little control over them. Therefore it will be difficult for the wastrel to become conscientious payer and for the liar to start saying the truth, just because the old thinking and behavioral models hold them tight. “I THINK” is as incorrect as “I DIGEST” or “I RUN MY BLOOD CIRCULATION”.

2. Our thinking is very reactive, in other words we REACT. For example: you get $200 salary raise and you take it with a big joy. You get salary decrease and you get angry. Somebody offers you new business and your brain reacts like you were taught by your grandmother 40 years ago: “Don’t start a business, stick to your secured state job.”

3. Once I had a pretty good idea about investing, and after I bought stocks for my portfolio, I mentioned the company to a friend who knows about investments but not enough to make his own judgment. He asked a common friend about his opinion who told him the company is not worth much. My friend didn't buy any stocks simply because of the other guy. He neither looked at the corporate statements and reports not read the news about the company. At the same time, the company profited 150% in a year and half. Bottom line: thinking is about asking for a friend’s advice or remembering your grandma’s old-fashioned view on various topics.

There is a very useful book by Eduardo De Bono called “6 Thinking Hats” which recommends PROACTIVE thinking vs. REACTIVE behavior.

The interesting part in this book is a game called “6 Thinking Hats” which could be played like many other popular games such chess, backgammon, scrabble, monopoly, etc. While in such standard games there are only a few possible moves, in De Bono’s game the players have the opportunity to make super-subjective decisions based on their creativity.

In his book De Bono defines that Ego blocks thinking. For example, if you have a moral position that someone is a bad person, it would be hard for you to admit that he could be a good man. You will always look for proves that he is bad. But if you use the 6 Thinking Hats, you will have to consider also the positive virtues, and all the sudden you could realize that his person is not so bad. If you decide not to do go with the “Hats” system, you will keep your negative standpoint always trying to find 100 different excuses.

The 6 Thinking Hats are:

6 Thinking Hats

BLUE : responsible for managing the thinking process; ensures that guidelines are observed

GREEN : focuses on creativity, possibilities, alternatives, new ideas

YELLOW : represents positivism that an idea is good and will be executed. Many people are strong positivists, in other words they use only this way of thinking.

RED : signifies emotions, feelings, intuition, sorrow, grief. Many people think only emotionally with no rational argument. This hat puts emotions over thinking. It is the most popular hat in everyday life. (I don’t know why, but this guy doesn't seem nice to me; I don’t why, but it’s not going to happen; You are wrong (emotionally with no strong argument); In car accident when both drivers are accusing each other; A kid calls another kid “A fool” and the second replies immediately “You are fool”).

WHITE : requires just the facts. (Mount Everest is the highest peak on Earth. No need to argue and dispute).

BLACK : signifies caution and critical thinking. It tells us “why a particular idea can’t be executed”. Many people are pessimistic and everything they are considering ends up with “Well, it is not going to happen.”

Everybody can make different thinking patterns and examples or refer to various issues and situations from everyday life. We could use only Red, Green and Black, or only White, Green and Black, or make other combinations which would help us have productive and creative thinking process.

---> Sample problem 1Should we go on vacation for second time this summer?

RED: We should go because it is good for the kids.

WHITE: Weather is lousy; also we’ve been on vacation this summer already.

GREEN: Let’s ask every member of the family.

- Member 1: I would prefer to stay here and not to go on vacation again.

- Member 2: I don’t want to go on vacation. I would only do it for our kid.

- Kid: I don’t want another summer vacation. I would prefer to start kindergarten earlier.

BLACK: We are not going.

---> Sample problem 2: Should we sell the villa house?

RED: Are you insane? The prices are low right now. Let’s wait for the market to go up again. Besides, this is a family house and I’m emotionally connected.

WHITE: We rarely go there – it’ been 2 years since our last trip there. This house is going to fall apart soon. If we sell, someone will make all need reconstruction and it will become a nice house again. It’s better if we have less money in pocket than nothing. An old house would not increase in value. Also we have to pay taxes every year. Besides, every trip to the house costs us lots of money.

GREEN: Let’s find brokers, put an ad and then we will see if there is any interest at all. If we succeed to sell this house we’re going to cover all credits we have. This would mean financial freedom for the whole family.

BLACK: We will put low price and will wait to see if something is going to happen. We should take pictures. Actually my uncle will take the pictures for us.

---> Sample problem 3: Should I buy another pair of boots and a bag?

RED: Of course I will buy them! Just look how beautiful the boots and the bag are and they match the color of my dress.

WHITE: This boots cost $200. Besides I have no room to put them. This is a fact!

GREEN: Just think of the last time you spent $200 for boots – did this make you happier? So probably you should get a boyfriend instead of spending so much money on shoes.

RED: If I don’t buy these boots, I will feel ugly, stupid and abandoned.

WHITE: You are beautiful, even only in a shirt.

GREEN: Hold on with your decision to buy them for 2 days. The boots will be waiting for in the store. Yet, if it happens there are gone, then they were not meant for you. Besides, your shopping mania to get those boots and bag could go away for those 2 days.

* Mariyan Yordanov is an active blogger, business journalist and capital markets analyst (since 2000), investor (since 1995), having experience as Operations Manager and IR Director.

** Lachezara Prunarova is the Communications Manager at MBAcademy being responsible for corporate image, media presence and training events organization (open and in-house).

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