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Idea Analysis and Six Hats

By Glen Chapman  

The Edward De Bono's six thinking hats can help us work through creating and analysing ideas, and allow for easier decision making for you and your business. By using the hats we compartmentalise our thinking so that we can move through the thinking process in a systematic way. This is one very useful process to get a handle on.

In this case we will use five of the hats in the following order. Green.....Yellow.....Black......Red......Blue.

So how does that work? The Green hat is used to generate ideas. It is the creative hat and is used for brain storming ideas. If you were looking at the opportunities in the marketplace, then the green hat can allow everyone working through the process, to think creatively and brainstorm the options and ideas. This might be for new products, changes to existing products, marketing ideas or threats in the market. It all depends on what your initial focus for the session is. Once you then have a list of ideas we then apply the other hats to cull the list down and produce a more target set of ideas and options to focus on.

This process is started by applying the other hats. Next put on your Yellow hat and think about which of the ideas you have identified are the best. The yellow hat is for positive or optimistic thinking. You should aim at picking the best 50% of the ideas you have generated. If you have a lot of ideas (>20), aim at getting this back to about 5-10. Once you have identified the best ideas you can then look at reducing this list by applying the next hat.

We reduce the list by applying black hat thinking. This is cautious or negative thinking. Which ideas won't work because of issues you can think of on the cautious side. You want to reduce the list again to about two or three of the top ideas.

The next hat which I have put into this process is the red hat. This is the emotion hat or the hat that allows you to use your gut feel about the ideas. Although this may not be very scientific, our gut feeling about an idea can play a big part in its success or failure down the track. Some times we have a feeling about an idea or option but don't really have any basis to the feeling. We should not ignore these feelings, but take note of them and determine strategies that may be able to work around these feelings.

The final hat is the blue hat. This is the organisational hat and is the one we put on when we have to put the implementation of the ideas in place. Look at the work that has to be done, who will do it, when and how. We also use this hat to go back over the process to make sure that we have covered all the aspects of the problem or situation and may call for us to go back through the process again.

So to summarise. The Green hat session creates the ideas or opportunities. The yellow hat looks at the positives or the strengths of the ideas. The black hat looks at what won't work or the weaknesses of the ideas. And the Red hat allows us to view the options from our emotion or gut feeling.

The Hats and a SWOT

The six thinking hats can be used to help people compartmentalise their thinking when doing the SWOT. Each section of the SWOT looks at a either the positive or negative parts of the internal and external environments of your business. When we are looking at the Opportunities (external) and the Strengths (internal) we can apply our yellow hat. When looking at the threats (external) and weaknesses (internal) then you use the black hat, the hat of caution of negative.

What ever you do you should always use the blue hat as the control hat over all the other hats, and apply it last of all to set the tasks and actions to implement the strategies you have come up with.

(© 1995 – 2007 Glen Chapman)