How to solve complex tasks together: Just put a new hat on!

The success of teams largely depends on their cohesion. But different opinions or goals over time often can cause tensions and weaken the team spirit. In many cases, a clarifying conversation can help. In particularly complex situations, it helps to consciously change your perspective before forming an opinion.

The “6 hat method”
The cognitive scientist Edward de Bono developed the “6-hat-method” for cases just like this. But, of course, it can do much more than just contribute to conflict resolution. Creativity technology enables a group to create completely new approaches, free themselves from old ways of thinking, and thus create unusual ideas. In addition, participants can better assess existing solutions and optimize them if necessary. In a kind of group discussion, they shed light on the topic from all sides – and the fun is not too short. With the method, different ways of thinking can be clearly separated, so awareness arises for the existence of other perspectives. This can avoid problems that occur when communication takes place on different levels. For example, if one person is emotionally and euphorically dealing with the topic, while another objectively considers the situation and considers what can go wrong in the project.
All you need is six hats in white, red, black, yellow, green and blue. Optionally, you can also use bracelets, place cards or other objects. Each color symbolizes a particular angle that a person or several people will take during the role play. Ideally your group will consist of six people or a multiple of them, for example 12 or 18. You can appoint a seventh person to be the moderator, but this is not mandatory as the one with the blue hat can also take on this part. At the beginning every participant or team receives a hat and thus an assigned role. During the discussion, you will argue according to the characteristics of your color.
That’s how it works
First, the moderator of the group outlines the task or problem that needs to be solved. He also explains the course of the discussion and the importance of thinking hats. Then, one by one, you put on your hats and tell the group how to judge the topic from the hat perspective. You keep the results in writing – for example, on a pinboard or a flipchart. If you discover that you are biased at others’ records, it may be useful to hide the notes for the time being. When all the participants have expressed their hats they continue in a predetermined order. You repeat this until all six roles have spoken extensively.

The colored hats stand for the following ways of thinking:
White hat: analytical, objective, factual
Red hat: emotional, subjective, opinionated
Black hat: critical, objective, risk-conscious
Yellow hat: optimistic, speculative
Green hat: creative, associative, constructive, innovative
Blue hat: grading, moderating, surveying

For an unbiased overview of the subject of discussion, it is recommended that the bearer of the white hat starts with his opinion. Emotions and prejudices must be left out in favor of objective numbers, data and facts. In contrast, the wearer of the red hat can let his emotions run wild – no matter whether they are positive or negative. The red hat stands for the gut feeling, for intuition and for thoughts, which may be irrational at times and need not be justified. With the black hat objective objections can be expressed. This critical attitude, unlike the red hat, must not be guided by feelings. The wearer of the yellow hat answers the question as to what might happen at best. He shows potential opportunities and names hopes and goals. As with the black hat, this is neither about subjective emotions nor about the development of concrete ideas or thinking and action approaches. Because that is the task of the participant with the green hat. He may only express positive thoughts. The last word is usually reserved for the wearer of the blue hat. Because he is responsible for keeping track of the big picture, classifying what has been said and coming to a conclusion. In addition, he can also take over the moderation of the group discussion.

Be creative!
You will see that the method not only improves the communication in your group, but that you really feel like getting into other roles. Exaggerations and theatrical speeches make for a high fun factor.
In our next blog article, we will introduce the Disney method to show you to another creative approach that may advance your leadership development. Stay curious!

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