Six Hats to Manage Your Next Meeting

Think about the last several meetings you facilitated or planned for. Was there ever an instance where the discussion got off course? Now imagine those same meetings if everyone had been in sync from the beginning to the end of the discussion.

Dr. Edward de Bono's "Six Thinking Hats" method creates this synchronized team thinking with a simple framework that produces more focused, productive, and timely meetings. In the Six Hats process, each colored hat represents a different type of thinking. The images of hats are cues that help attendees to identify their current thinking, sharpen their focus, and arrive at a solution in a shorter period of time.

White Hat
In every meeting there is information that is known or should be made known. When meeting participants "wear" their white hats, they discuss factual, objective information available to them for that particular topic. When team members put on their white hats, they can quickly identify what they know, what is missing, and how to get that missing information.

Red Hat
No matter what the meeting topic, everyone has an opinion. And everyone wants to be heard. When people are unable to communicate their feelings about a topic, they often become consumed by that emotion and rarely open their eyes to other possibilities. When team members put on their red hats, they must use their intuition and feelings to guide them in their thinking about the topic at hand.

Yellow Hat
The people who always have a smile on their face will excel at yellow-hat thinking. Yellow-hat thinking is the deliberate search for the positive. This helps to ensure that every idea is given an equal chance, and helps teams to speculate on the success of an idea.

Black Hat
Almost everyone has been to a meeting where one person promises to do the group a favor and play devil's advocate. From that point on, no matter what is suggested, this person trouble-shoots and finds something wrong with every idea presented—this is classic black-hat thinking. Often referred to incorrectly as the negative hat, black-hat thinking gives the group an opportunity to raise legitimate concerns, check out perceived difficulties, and examine problems surrounding an idea in the time allowed.

Green Hat
If you add a short creative thinking exercise to your next meeting, your participants are more likely to be engaged in the development of a solution. Under the green hat, meeting participants use a variety of lateral thinking techniques to develop alternatives and creative ideas. The green hat also offers an opportunity to provide innovative solutions for tired topics.

Blue Hat
Traditionally worn by a team leader or meeting facilitator, or even a meeting planner, the individual wearing the blue hat is responsible for managing the thinking process: defining meeting topics and hat sequences, reminding individuals of time constraints, and identifying next steps at the conclusion of a meeting. While everyone participating in the meeting "wears" the same hat at the same time, the individual selected to manage the meeting should wear the blue hat throughout the entire meeting. That does not preclude the blue-hat wearer from participating in the meeting. The blue hat wearer can join in other hat thinking, so long as they keep one eye on preserving the integrity of the Six Hats method.

Chuck Dymer was the first person permitted to teach the "Six Thinking Hats," and is an accredited master trainer in the de Bono Thinking Methods. He is also the founder and president of PeopleWorks, Inc. He can be contacted at www.theidealoft.com.