How six hats can teach you to be a better problem solver

I’ve recently gone through a SAFe training for Scrum Masters and one of the topics discussed was problem solving techniques. The trainer shared a method I learned some time ago which can be applied to any field – it can even be used in your personal life. I’m referring to “The Six Thinking Hats” technique.

“The Six Thinking Hats” is an approach to problem solving invented by Edward de Bono. This technique is all about vantage points with a touch of empathy. 

You get to wear six different hats, each one representing a different perspective. What I like in particular is that this problem solving technique utilizes gut feeling and intuition. Let’s examine it and discover what hats you can wear when trying to solve a problem.

The White Hat or “The Facts”

The number one step to address a problem is to make an objective, honest and clear evaluation, looking at the facts alone. This hat is neutral. All it needs are facts and figures, NOT how anyone felt or perceived them. That is the first step in addressing any problem.

The Yellow Hat or “The Optimist”

There’s a good side to almost everything. When you put this hat on, you have to see the good part in any idea. With this hat on, you have to search for the positive aspects and benefits.

The Black Hat or “The Cynic”

This hat criticizes the ideas and approaches them with caution. Its purpose is to keep you away from bad decisions. What may not work? What are the dangers?

The Red Hat or “The Feelings”

How do you feel about the ideas being expressed? What is your gut feeling? What does your intuition tell you? Just identify how you feel about the ideas that are being presented. Do you love them? Hate them?

The Green Hat or “The Creativity”

We’ve exposed the problem, now it’s time to get creative. Brainstorm, explore all possibilities, alternatives and start putting some NEW ideas on the table. Normally, everyone should contribute here. Just throw those ideas out and get ready for debate. The more ideas you have in front of you, the more likely you are to find a solution. Don’t dismiss anything at this point. All ideas, no matter how crazy, must be considered.

The Blue Hat or “The Manager”

This is the hat that organizes the others. With this hat on, you control the entire decision-making process and make sure that all other hats follow the rules and guidelines.

I’ve applied this method recently in a personal challenge and having to analyze my situation with these various hats made me more comfortable with the decisions I made.

Sometimes the solutions to problems are not ideal. They may not be the best ever, but they always have to be solutions that we can live with.

This article was originally published on Bogdan’s blog ‘See The Human Side’.