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6 Thinking Hats

By Ashley

Earlier last year, I attended a conference for camp/retreat center directors and team leaders. It’s 3 days of fellowship and encouragement for a group of people that struggle or have struggled with similar issues. After the first session, I realized that the information and topics discussed would be helpful for all hospitality and ministry leaders, so I grabbed my laptop and began to write some blogs!

I attended a workshop led by Gil Meier (Sunstream Retreat Center) discussing Edward de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’ book & concept. The quick explanation is that there are 6 colored hats that a team can use during planning sessions and leadership meetings. By consciously selecting and staying in the boundaries of just one thinking hat at a time, it helps keep your meeting productive. From the Bono’s website:

“You and your team members can learn how to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each thinking role is identified with a colored symbolic "thinking hat." By mentally wearing and switching "hats," you can easily focus or redirect thoughts, the conversation, or the meeting.”

Although you can go the website to identify summaries of each hat, I want to share with you the additional thoughts that were discussed during the workshop; thoughts on particular colors, the process, and the cautions.

Blue Hat: cool, in control, often the chairperson. Process; structure; focus; control.

- Although this is commonly the leader of the group, this does not mean this leader is stuck with only the blue hat. They too can contribute to the other color discussions.

- Often the leader, wearing the blue hat, will begin the meeting and continue to facilitate conversation. They will be the one select the next hat to be used and to keep the team on that specific color.

Green Hat: growth; seeds (ideas); alternatives; creativity; new thoughts.

- Everyone can wear this thinking hat! Although you may be the leader (blue hat) or maybe you are naturally a black hat person, do not stifle the creativity of others. This is a great place to throw out any and all ideas.

Yellow Hat: optimistic; positive; constructive; benefits; hopes; visions; and dreams.

- Discuss all the positives or pros to the various ideas and thoughts that are created during the green hat phase. This is logical; not ‘I like’ or this ‘feels right’.

Black Hat: critical thinking; serious; logical; cautious; risk assessment; seeks weak links.

- Discuss all the negatives or cons to the various ideas and thoughts that are created during the green hat phase. Again this is logical and not personal.

Red Hat: feelings and emotions made visible. Emotions are fears, misgivings, dislikes, anger, and euphoria. Feelings are a sense, a notion, unease, an impression, suspicion.

- This is where all personal feelings come forward. This is a safe place for people to express feeling or a hunch. They do not have to support with logic or sense.

- Those with personal relationships often dwell in the red hat phase because of their sense of security and safety to speak as they feel. The designated hats allow these close team members to get away from only speaking on feelings and focus on facts, pros, cons, and essentially have productive conversations.

White Hat: absence of color; neutral; data; hard facts and figures.

- This is a great hat to start and end with. You can use this hat to begin a conversation with stating facts and the project. You can use this hat to end the conversation with summarizing what facts or data is still needed to make a decision. You can also then assign task forces as needed.

Additional thoughts:

- Sometimes you do not need to use all hats for all conversations.

- Be careful not to permanently place someone with a particular color. So often ‘Sally’ says a lot in the black hat phase, but do not classify her as only a black hat person. ‘Sally’ may have things to share during other color thinking hats, or may feel embarrassed if you point out that she only contributes during a particular color.

- Although the blue hat guides conversation from hat to hat and keeps the talk focused to the current color, if there is a need to return then feel free to open the discussion back up.

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