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

No comments: