Newsletter – The 6 Emotional Basket Case Thinking Hats

The 6 Emotional Basket Case Thinking Hats

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Out of what appears to me to be intense frustration with the whack-a-mole fashion in which humans approach creative thinking and problem-solving, Edward de Bono created a straight-forward and elegant tool called the Six Thinking Hats®. Each hat is a different color and invites the thinker to adopt a different point of view. Wearing the various hats enables us to break out of a rut and view a situation from a number of perspectives. Here’s how it works. You take on each hat’s perspective try like heck to think about the situation from that perspective instead of your normal bias. This process works pretty well both alone and in groups. I actually dyed 6 hats the various colors and put them on one by one to see if wearing the hats actually made a difference. I think it’s safe to say that you don’t need the hats.

Here’s what the hats mean in de Bono’s model:

  • The White Hat is the one that super-analytical people love because it stands for information. “Get me more data!” is the cry of those wearing the white hat. The Green Hat and the Yellow Hat are my favorites.
  • The Green Hat focuses on creativity, possibilities, alternatives and new ideas. It is the hat that asks the paradigm-shifting question “What seems impossible today, but if it WERE possible, would transform my life for the better?”
  • The Yellow Hat is the one that I intentionally whip out when I want to attack something that seems impossible or when I am absolutely convinced that something sucks to high heaven. It is the hat of optimism and positive thinking. Sometimes it works, sometimes the situation really does suck. Oh well! It’s worth a shot.
  • The Black Hat is one of the most overused by those hoping to avoid failure and those hoping to avoid doing anything at all. It’s the hat of judgment, criticism and negative thinking. Actually, as much as I bashed the black hat in the first sentence of this paragraph, I’m a big believer in the power of negative thinking. We generally have all of these fears, obstacles and doubts floating around in our heads anyhow, so we might as well spew them and get them out in the open where we can deal with them before moving on to all the things we can do to make it happen in spite of the fact that something appears impossible. (Back to the Yellow Hat!)
  • The Red Hat is pretty cool. It is the hat of emotion and intuition. In the spirit of Malcom Gladwell’s “Blink”, there is no need to justify or explain your thinking. Your gut feel gets an airing when you’re wearing this cap and no one is supposed to ask you to explain yourself. (After reading Tor Norretrander’s “The User Illusion” you’d realize that most of the time when we are “explaining ourselves” it is just a grand rationalization anyway!)
  • And finally, the Blue Hat is the overall approach to thinking, the hat that makes sure you actually take the time to put on the other hats rather than clinging to your favorite color.

While the Six Thinking Hats® tool works astonishingly well as designed, during the intensity and mood swings of the recent holidays I began to contrive an alternative version for dealing with human emotion. Let me know what you think.

  • The Yellow-belly Hat – This is the hat of cowardice, the hat to wear when you want to avoid dealing with an unpleasant situation or having a difficult conversation with someone who is bugging the stuffing out of you.
  • The Green with Jealosy Hat – This hat comes in handy when someone you thought was a total loser strikes it big and you really don’t feel like offering them your heartfelt congratulations. It’s also handy when the success of dear friends and colleagues whom you’d always assumed were lesser than you starts to exceed your own dismal success.
  • The Red with Rage Hat – VERY handy when the blood rushes from your brain to your appendages, leaving little or no capacity for rational thinking or behavior. This is the hat to wear when you are going to say something that you are sure to regret a nanosecond or two later. Also quite useful when you are writing a nasty email or bitching out some poor customer support person over the telephone as it’s much easier to take such drastic action while under the anger-induced illusion that the other person is a jerk you are completely justified in whatever reptilian behavior you are engaged in. It’s pretty handy while driving, too!
  • The “But My Intention was Pure” White Hat – Usually a good follow up to any of the distasteful behaviors brought about by the Red, Yellow or Green Hats, above. (Seriously, though, impact and intention are two different things. If I accidentally run you over with my Scion XB are you still hurt? You bet! Intention doesn’t remove impact, and it’s our impact that we need to deal with. The temptation to hide out in intention is incredibly strong, but focusing on impact is far more effective. Give it a whirl next time someone lets you know that you hurt their feelings.)
  • The Black Night of the Soul Hat – Comes in handy during middle age when you start to wonder “What does it all mean?” and “Are we really just blobs of protoplasm clinging to a rock hurtling through space?”
  • The Got-the-Blues Hat – For those depressing moments when you realize that we are just blobs of protoplasm clinging to a rock hurtling through space.

Let me know what you think! I’m always up for some insights on how to deal with the consequences of the biochemical soup coarsing through my body!

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