If your instincts tell you there is a business opportunity on the horizon not to be missed or you have a big idea worth exploring, how do you go about assessing it? For the average small business, hiring a project management team to make a business case is a little overkill.
One of the greatest advantages to a small business is flexibility. Seeing that golden trend and switching course quicker than everyone else is what can propel a small business to success. Objectivity is critical, but how can you assess this idea quickly and effectively?
Enter Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. Edward De Bono is ‘The Father of Lateral Thinking’, a psychologist, physician, and consultant, he designed the Six Thinking Hats system to enable parallel thinking in a variety of situations.
It has been adopted by large corporations, governments and school children to be a constructive replacement for ‘argument’ based discussions. De Bono describes argument as ‘ineffective, inefficient and extremely slow’. He has a point.
Rather than trying to bring people round to your way of thinking, to see your side of the situation or persuade them, using the hats is about everyone, in turn looking at a situation from a specific view point and sharing their findings. This allows everyone involved making full use of their intelligence and experience to maximise their contribution.
So what are the individual hats about? Each has a different colour to allow for easy recognition. Some organisations get real hats in the different colours, others prefer the hats to be imaginary but put up posters around the room to remind team members of each hats purpose.
The White Hat
Put your intuition to one side, bury your emotions; the white hat is focused on facts and figures. When wearing this hat you need to be objective to present and apply data to the point being discussed.
The Red Hat
As with how the colour is used in advertising and design, red represents emotions. This could be love or anger, like seeing red, you need to tap in to how you feel about the situation.
The Black Hat
Many find this hat the easiest to fit in to, it is serious and identifies weaknesses in an idea. Often perceived as negative, it should really be thought of as cautious and careful, being honest about the risks without poo-pooing the idea.
The Yellow Hat
Like a ray of sunshine, in this hat you should be positive and optimistic. Use this hat to look at an opportunity from a position of ‘best case scenario’, being hopeful for a good outcome from change.
The Green Hat
Green represents growth and fertility, it is the hat for being creative and encourages new ideas. You can address an idea and seek ways to expand on it, add depth or take it in a new direction.
The Blue Hat
Calm and collected, blue represents supervision and direction. Above all else is the blue sky, so the blue hat controls the thinking process and organises the other hats.
An A4 printable PDF version of this poster is available here.
So next time you see a great business opportunity but you want to weigh up the risks, get the team together and rotate the hats till all of you have explored it from every angle. Not only can it help you assess the idea, you can gain a great deal of buy-in from your team by involving them in the process.
If you want to read about this in greater detail, check out Edward De Bono’s international best selling book on the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ printed by Penguin.