Saturday, March 22, 2008
BOOK REVIEW: SIX THINKING HATS (Edward de Bono, 1985)
Have you ever been into a meeting with other people trying to find a solution for a problem, spending hours talking and ending up with no result? Yeah, me too. Lots of times. The basic premise of Edward de Bono's 'Six Thinking Hats' is to provide you with a method to avoid that situation.
The main problem in most meetings is how to deal with the different personalities of the people involved. There is some creative but not-so-well organized people, people who only criticize, others who just want plain data and nothing else... If you find a group who knows how to work together is great, but that rarely happen.
So de Bono offers a way to organize people's thinking to optimize the result. The system works as follows: The author has isolated the different personalities which could be involved in a decision-making process, and assign each one of them with a colored hat:
- White Hat: Facts and figures
- Red Hat: Emotions and feelings
- Black Hat: Problems
- Yellow Hat: Positivism
- Green Hat: Creativeness
- Blue Hat: Organization
Then all people involved in finding the solution need to use each different hat when they're required. It's like a role-playing game, but with a professional objective. Each person will probably be particularly skilled in one or two of the different hats, but the final result should be a complete overview of the problem, the solutions and which is the best one.
Well, that's what de Bono says. However, my personal impression about this issue is not as optimistic as the author's. Seems like all those people using hats need to have a unique approach to the problem: They should all be in the same level (or at least be allowed to talk freely to people of a higher rank), they should all be really willing to surrender their own personal solutions to another one, be open to criticism and eventually be really looking for the best solution.
My personal experience is quite different: The main motivation is not to find the best solution, since bosses always use their hyerarchies to make their own proposals win over the others. Few bosses that I know have really managed to create an atmosphere where anyone can talk freely. The main motivation of the people in the meetings is generally to make their proposals triumph over the others, or simply accept the boss solution in a smart way trying to get as much credit as possible. In most situations, when they fail to make their ideas succeed they talk with the boss alone, convince him and make his approach be the winner. And no, I don't think this only happen in Spain. I've worked with people from lots of countries and it happens all the time.
If someday de Bono's idealistic system is really put to work I'll be the first to adopt it. Sadly, my experience tells me that the decision-making process is based on 'company politics'. De Bono's method seems interesting for those social areas were there can really be a 'best solution' (engineering, for instance) but not for those areas where is not that easy to decide if a solution is the best or not. Any artistic-related activity will not allow that easily. Videogame design is one of them. However, I think the book is extremely interesting because of its isolation of personalities. Once you spot a 'black hat' person (only points out the problems, never provide a solution) it's easier to deal with him, asking them to use 'another hat'.