This week’s Pearl of Leadership Wisdom is on Thinking.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

In the boardroom…

“I’ve got this great idea. It’s a device you speak into and you can talk to other people who are far away. It’ll allow us to speak to people in the next county!”

“But I don’t know anyone in the next county.”

“I know, but think how good it would be if you did!”

“But I don’t…”

Kiss your comfort zone goodbye…

We develop habits of thinking. We become comfortable in our habits. And more certain of our correctness. We stifle creative thought. We suppress full and rational discussion and in so doing, miss the opportunity.

Edward de Bono is having none of it. The inventor of “lateral thinking” speaks of his Six Hats Thinking.

Put your hat on…

Choose a hat. You can wear many. And should.

White hat – think “neutrality”.

A focus on information and facts. What’s available and what can be found out. All the facts, not just the ones you like. No selective memory. No force-fitting. No post-event rationale.

Red Hat – think “fire!”

Emotions and feelings. “What do you feel about this?” No need to explain. Just state the feelings. Emotions are legitimate. They are not dirty secrets. It is said that women are, stereotypically, more emotional than men. And men make decisions based on objective rationality. This is, of course, poo. All decisions are emotional. It’s just that men go through the post-event rational of thinking up good, “objective” reasons as to why their emotions are correct. And “objectivity” has a value in our society. Women tend to have moved on by this point.

Black Hat – think “judgemental”.

Critical. Why it won’t work. This is called “logical negative”. Very common with technocrats with no vision. “Ooh, it’ll never work.” And those who are small and secretly think it’s a great idea but only if it’s their idea.

Yellow Hat – think “sunshine”.

Optimism. It’s all about benefits. What’s good. This is called “logical positive”. Sunshine and optimism – sounds flaky, doesn’t it? You must be British. That’s conditioning. Nothing wrong with sunshine and optimism. And remember, this is just one hat and you must wear them all.

Green Hat – think “vegetation”.

Growth. Creative thinking. Possibilities. New ideas. Be a dreamer. But not only a dreamer. Why do we go to the moon – because it’s there. Why do we map the human genome. Because we can, and who knows…

Blue Hat – think “sky”.

Cool. Calm. Overview. Control of process. The chairperson…organiser. Thinking about thinking. Someone has to. Otherwise it’s a bun fight.

Know your enemy…

It’s not about fighting a battle to see who’s wearing the right hat. It’s about wearing all the hats, and fighting a battle against our comfort zones, to solve the problem, or realise the opportunity.

It’s about removing the barrier that is our individual ego. That puts us before the problem or the opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong – ego is great. Without it we’d be pond life. But it’s a double edged sword. To be used, with caution. Make ego–gratification equal to solving the problem or realising the opportunity, not “winning” a fight with your colleagues.

Here’s how to do it…

Get a facilitator to do white hat, blue hat and manage the process.

Then challenge people.

“Yes I know you can see how this will not work.” “And we welcome that” (We really do – a sceptic is usually worth their weight in gold.)

“But we ask more of you. We ask you to contribute more fully. To think about what might be; how we can make it happen; how good it could be.”

Then we’ll make a decision. Based on a full and open discussion. Not on who has the greatest ability to argue. My wife sometimes says to me “you haven’t won the argument, you’re just better at arguing. “

She has a point.

And the lesson is…

That the objective needs to be to arrive smiling at the best result for the issue at hand.

No ego is required.

The six hats are required.

Try this…it works.


, , , , ,

2 Responses to Thinking

  1. Immilkyminc May 25, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
    I’ve been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

    Thumbs up, and keep it going!


  2. Mark Nugent May 26, 2010 at 4:10 pm #

    Glad you like it Christian. I send the weekly Pearl to my contacts as an email. As of now, I’m going to direct them to this blog, so we should see more comments soon.

Leave a Reply