Friday, July 08, 2011

Alan Hirsch explains how Christians can use de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats

Alan Hirsch
One of the leading advocates for missional living, Alan Hirsch, recommends using Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats as a possible tool when brainstorming new direction or ideas for your organisation or church or even when doing a group Bible study. You may recall me blogging about Alan Hirsch and contemporary apostles and what he said about how we can be apostolic. Well, this is really just a footnote to that post.

Hirsch describes Edward de Bono as ‘no theologian but definitely the leading specialist in creative learning processes.’ I have a number of de Bono books and have enjoyed them over the years. One key to understanding where de Bono is coming from is in his book Parallel Thinking. There he maintains that argument and debate are easily abused by being adversarial. He admits that there might be gentler discussions in which a genuine attempt is made to explore a subject but ultimately he sees our common approach to discussions as flawed. In its place he proposes what he calls parallel thinking. In other books de Bono outlines practical ways to do this. One of his most famous methods is the Six Thinking Hats.

In the Forgotten Ways Handbook, Alan Hirsch outlines de Bono's Six Thinking Hats. ‘The six hats’, he says, ‘represent six modes of thinking and directions to think rather than labels for thinking.’

Six Thinking Hats
The six hats can be summarised like this:

White Hat: Think of white paper and so data and information. What information do we need to know about this situation? What would you like to know? What do you need to know?

Red Hat: Think of fire and warmth and so emotions. What are your immediate instinctive feelings about the situation?

Black Hat: Think of the black robes of a judge. What are the dangers and difficulties of the situation? What are the problems?

Yellow Hat: Think of sunshine. Think of the positive and optimistic viewpoint. What are the benefits of the situation?

Green Hat: Think of vegetation and growth. This is where you think creatively about the situation. Suggest changes and modifications.

Blue Hat: Think of the sky. This hat gives us an overview. How would you organise the thinking about the situation? For example, propose a sequence of hats to be applied to the situation for all group members to take in turn.

In a previous book with Michael Frost, The Shaping Of Things To Come, Hirsch described the six hats like this: ‘Participants agree to switch hats for a period of time in order to take a certain approach that they would not normally take to the problem. While wearing a particular hat, each participant is committed to thinking only as that hat allows… You don’t need actual hats, just the imagination to think and speak in different modes.’

Group Discussion and Planning by Anyaka
One good way to organise a time of thinking about something is for everyone in the group to take the same hat for a given period. So for example everyone might think positively about an idea using the yellow had and then everyone think critically using the black hat and so on. In debates only some people tend to see the positives, whereas those on the other side tend to see the negatives and people don’t tend to think much in any of the other ways. Six hats thinking gets everyone working in every direction that is needed.

An important point for Hirsch about the six hats is that ‘the method produces fuller input from more people. In de Bono’s words, “it separates ego from performance.” Everyone is able to contribute to the exploration without denting egos.’

I love this method. I wonder where we can actually use it. Any ideas?

Related post:
The Forgotten Ways: Apostles in the Emerging Missional Church

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Praying for Saint Phillip’s

Robert Pickles
Nettes and I had a good time this morning praying in what used to be Saint Phillip’s Sixth Form College. This is a building that has stood empty for some time and is now rented by New College Birmingham. New College works in association with the Birmingham Bible Institute Family that includes Birmingham Christian College. Robert Pickles gave us a guided tour of the building explaining that the plan was to use some of the rooms there for the college, but there was more space than they needed.  He was open to suggestions that may be acceptable uses for the rest of the space, such as opening the canteen as a community café, renovating and using the sports hall and even using rooms for a social enterprise.

Paul & Jackie had invited us there to pray. They work with the homeless and run a Drop In one day a week at the Ledbury Centre. They have been helping decorate Saint Phillips along with some of the guys who go to the Drop In. Paul & Jackie and some others usually pray every other Saturday about the work with the homeless and the Drop In. This time they had decided to come to Saint Phillip's to pray that these premises would be used for God’s Kingdom as New College moves in there and to pray about possiblities for other projects that might be explored.  Paul and Jackie are looking to eventually move the Drop In into larger premises as it is outgrowing our little church building and are hoping to explore the possiblity of using some of the space at Saint Phillip's.

New College, Birmingham

Another idea that has been mooted as a project for the local area is to have local artists and artisans set up a social enterprise running workshops teaching people their skills. It could be that they also have exhibitions and sales. This is the sort of project that might be feasible to be run from a place like Saint Phillip's.

We prayed for some time in the canteen gathered around Robert and Hazel Pickles. It is great when Christians get together at grass roots level to pray like this. But we were also talking about the importance of church leaders getting together. We were saying how we know of local leaders in the area getting together to pray. Robert also mentioned an initiative called 2020 Birmingham where leaders across Birmingham from a number of different groupings are working together with an aim to plant twenty churches in the Birmingham area by the year 2020.

Finally we broke down into two or threes praying in different areas of the centre. I went with Nettes into the small kitchen. Among other things we were praying that the kitchen would serve wholesome food and not be tempted to go the fast food route but to serve healthy, locally sourced produce and for the café to be a fair trade café and possibly even a training enterprise.

This is all very exciting!

Related posts:
Down And Out In Birmingham
More Thoughts On Social Enterprise