Six thinking hats, anyone?

What are the six thinking hats? And is there a thinking turban for us Arabs? Edward de Bono wrote a groundbreaking series of books that can enhance the effectiveness of any brainstorming session or group discussion. In meetings with business associates, caregivers of children, or even football club members, we all need to upgrade the quality of the ways in which we think.

De Bono’s six thinking hats method allows us to categorize the attitudes of our various thought processes. Sometimes, we get too excited about a certain idea that leads us to making terrible mistakes, and sometimes we are so cautious that we miss a lot of opportunities.

Therefore, de Bono offered the black hat, figuratively, for us to lay down on the table any worrisome idea with regard to the topic at hand. The yellow hat lets out all the zestful and energetic statements that boost team spirit. Then comes the much-needed white hat that only handles straight-up logical, mathematical and statistical points that feed the discussion with pure, unfiltered facts.

The white hat speaker may lack passion, so de Bono throws in the red hat that is only for our intuitions, that brings out our gut feelings. Enter the green hat, for bringing only the positive points of the matter at hand; that gets all the wishful thinking out in the open. Lastly, the most important hat is the blue hat. Its owner is the only one who is allowed to manage the use of all the other hats.

All of these hats seemed childish to me. In my opinion, meetings ought to never restrict a speaker to a single role that he or she is not allowed to think outside of. However, when I did try on the six thinking hats myself, and in group discussions I have been a part of, I have seen how quick the ideas formed themselves into a very clear and satisfying conclusion. But what about that turban?

Needless to say that much like most of de Bono’s books, his Six Thinking Hats book has been translated into many languages. Dr Sharef Muhsin from Egypt handled the Arabic translation of this book, and added a turban to the six thinking hats, which is a spiritual one. One who wears this gets to pray and seek guidance from a higher entity. But I personally disagree with pairing it with the six thinking hats, because prayer is a form of worship and not an argumentative process.

All in all, not to be overrated, the six thinking hats can be at times highly productive and a big timesaver. Also, it can get burdensome when it turns off our “autopilot” system of handling simple decisions that do not need much debate.

By Jeri Al-Jeri
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