De Bono: expand your thinking – 6 ways to look at things

Good chances that you’ve heard of De Bono and his Six Thinking Hats. Smaller chances that you recall what they were, and more relevant, what you can actually do with this color festival.

Edward De Bono categorized six “typical” ways of thinking, and suggested that although we may be biased towards particular colors, [1] this may differ per situation, [2] our brains are not wired towards such a bias. That means that if we challenge ourselves, we can consider things in all six ways.

The colors and what they stand for are: red (emotions), blue (reflexive), black (critical), yellow (positive), green (creative), white (fact driven). The colors translate into questions you could consider: see the pie figure.

So how does this help? For one thing: it may help expand your own thought about something. For another thing: it can help setting the stage (and smooth out latent friction) for members of a team. They will not automatically think in the same way about the project. It can help then, to organize a “thought session”, in which the project gets discussed from all six thought angles.

Start with any color. All the team members have to say something about the project in that color (so they have to adopt that thinking style). Do this for all the six colors. Now everybody has [1] thought about the project in six ways, [2] heard a lot of things from all the members in all the colors. That means that their thought range about the project has been substantially expanded. So even if they switch back to a bias, they will have a lot more understanding for other ways of thinking about it. This has a harmonizing effect.

All in all, the seemingly childish approach of De Bono can do something useful: expand thought, and harmonize teams. Do try this at home…

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