The Six Hats of Creative Thinking

All business owners face challenges and opportunities on a regular basis. And with all the details of running a business, it’s often difficult to find the time to think creatively about the best solutions.  For the bigger challenges – such as whether or not you can afford to purchase a new truck to grow your business – you may rely on a team of advisors. Whether they are part of a formal advisory board or just trusted colleagues, they can help you think about your challenges in a new light.

PVGrows organized a forum where they invited 7 enterprises to present their challenges with the opportunity to have the collective community as advisors.  Attendees of the forum joined teams to help problem-solve. And to give the brainstorming some structure, we used the model of Six Hats of Creative Thinking.  This model was developed by the  de bono institute.

Each hat offers a different way of thinking about a problem.  Whether you call it a hat, lens or do-dad, you can replicate this model within your own advisory team by assigning each person a different lens to look at your company’s challenges and opportunities.

The brainstorming session started with each enterprise presenting their “challenge statement.” Some of the challenges offered included:

Valley Green Feast is exploring expanding into farm-to-school delivery.  How can we meet this social and ecological goal, while remaining financially sustainable?

We have three partially interdependent strategies for how our small-scale livestock farm can be sustainable, but we are unsure of how to test, plan and implement them.

Before you can put your team to work thinking creatively, you must clearly identify your challenge or opportunity. What exactly is the challenge? What is the opportunity? What are the road-blocks? With a clearly stated challenge or opportunity, ask your advisors to assume a different role in thinking about solutions.

The Black Hat gathers information.  Some questions that can be asked are:

What information do we have? What information do we need to make a more informed decision? What information is missing? How will we get the missing information?

The Red Hat explores the underlying feeling and gut reactions.  Some questions that can be asked are:

What is my gut reaction to this opportunity? What is my immediate response? What is my intuition tell me? How can I use these instincts in my decision making?

The White Hat examines the difficulties and challenges the benefit of the opportunity by asking questions:

What are the drawbacks of this idea? What possible problems could arise? What are the risks associated with it? Are there errors in logic? What doesn’t make sense?

The Yellow Hat evaluates the benefits and values by asking optimistic questions like:

What are the benefits? What values are reflected in this? What will make this idea work?

The Green Hat looks at alternatives and other possibilities. They raise questions by asking:

What are the alternative solutions to the problem? How might we overcome the challenges that the White Hat raised? What modifications could be made to the original idea?  What action is possible?

And finally, the Blue Hat organizes the thoughts by reminding the entrepreneur of the primary focus, other issues that need to be addressed and outlining next steps.

I’ll be exploring this model further with select entrepreneurs this fall. Stay tuned for details.

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