Use Six Thinking Hats to Structure Brainstorming Sessions

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Use Six Thinking Hats to Structure Brainstorming Sessions
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada

I suggest using the Six Thinking Hats method to organize thinking in a brainstorming session:
1. Start by wearing a Blue hat as a facilitator and explain the purpose of the session and the meeting rules.
2. Then ask everyone to put on a White hat and share relevant background information.
3. Now switch to the Green hats and generate new ideas.
4. Change to the Yellow hats to identify the positives and benefits of ideas.
5. Gather negative concerns such as Groupthink with the Black hats.
6. Check emotions under the Red hats.
7. Finally, summarize the session outcomes as the Blue hat facilitator.
Head over to the Six Thinking Hats forum to learn more about how other members practice Parallel Thinking.

How to deal with individuals that are unable or unwilling to change hats?
Bryan, Entrepreneur, Singapore
It would be an ideal if meetings could be conducted in as sequential as the six thinking hats methods. But what if some team members lack the adaptability of putting on different hats and prefer sticking to a black hat with negative concerns and avoiding green hats? Such individuals that are strong in wearing certain colored hats have opinions are valuable, but will their resistance to the other colored hats break the flow of the brainstorming session?

Setting Meeting Rules in Brainstorming
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada
@Bryan: Meeting rules need to be established before the actual brainstorming session starts. As a facilitator (wearing a Blue hat), I will set a sequence of hats as the agenda and post a list of Parallel Thinking rules.
The primary rule is for everyone to wear the same hat at the same time. When someone breaks the rule, I don't punish but will say: "That's a good thought but it's a Black hat. We're in Green hat right now. When it's time to wear the Black hat, please bring it up then. Others including me will also be voicing similar Black hats concerns and we want to do it together."
Often people will interrupt because they are afraid their thought will be lost. Assuring them they will be heard when it's time for the Black hat (or another hat) helps a great deal. That's why it's also important to set a hat sequence agenda at the beginning.
More hints and tips can be found over at the Six Thinking Hats forum.

Seven Notes of Management
Alexander N. Raikov, Director, Russian Federation
In Russia we have the popular book "Seven Notes of Management". Each step of management in this book has its own color.
The 7 components of management in this book are:
1. Plan
2. Structure
3. Finance
4. Marketing
5. Accounting
6. Economics
7. Organization.
Every component has its own color and stencil. The book is written by managers and professionals from well-known companies. The first edition was publised in 1996. Since then it was 7 editions. Total - 3.000.000 copies. In 2011 we (13 authors) published a new, more advanced book "Design of Regular Management". The books are currently in Russian only.
The 7 notes could be useful for brainstorming too.

Tip for Six Thinking Hats Method
Andrew Blaine, Business Consultant, South Africa
@Gary Wong: may I suggest that you give everybody 6 different coloured pieces of paper so that "stormers" can make notes to raise at the appropriate stage, thereby overcoming the fear of forgetting, which will detract from your session?

Using Coloured Notes to Overcome Fear of Forgetting
Gary Wong, Consultant, Canada
@Andrew Blaine: Yes, you could have different coloured pieces of paper but I suggest you don't. Parallel thinking requires everyone thinking, talking, and listening under the same hat. If a "stormer" is busy making notes, then (s)he isn't wearing the same hat as the others.
I remember one session where I called for Green hat thinking. One idea was raised and then the room suddenly went silent. I looked around and noticed people with heads down busily making notes. I asked what everyone was doing. One reply was: "I'm jotting down why that idea won't work." Someone else replied: "Hey, I'm doing the same thing!" Another said: "Not me. I'm thinking how that idea might work in my department."
It was a "Ah-hah!" moment for the group. They all realized their brains were causing them to react and jump all over the place. We agreed to be more disciplined, stay focused on one hat, and returned to the task of generating more Green hat ideas.
I feel there is less worry about the fear of forgetting when you are working in a group; there's a strong chance someone else shares a similar thought.


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