A simple exercise to encourage diversity of thinking when problem solving.

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Kevin May owns the Sticks advertising agency in Seattle.

He holds ‘brainstorm salons’ where he invites groups of smart people along who have nothing to do with the ad campaigns they will be talking about.

He says it’s amazing what an engineer has to say about lingerie or an artist has to say about accountancy problems. You can get amazingly different insights, reframed approaches and other ways of looking at problems that people immersed in the problem would never come up with because they’re blinkered by being too close.

As individuals we are prone to similar patterns of thinking. Unsurprisingly, we don’t think like other people do. We think how we do.

However, when we’re faced with a challenge that requires us to get resourceful, this can leave us a bit hamstrung. The reason is because, in order to be an effective problem solver, you need to think differently.

Dr. Edward De Bono has been described as one of the world’s greatest thinkers.

He has dedicated most of his life to teaching people ‘how’ to think rather than ‘what’ to think.

He devised the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ technique which is a role playing method whereby a group of people debate a problem by adopting different ‘hats’.

Each ‘hat’ requires the person to respond with a certain perspective. They are as follows:

1. White Hat — Facts

2. Red Hat — Emotions

3. Yellow Hat — Benefits

4. Green Hat — Ideas

5. Blue Hat — Planning

6. Black Hat — Judgement

Each person adopts the mentality of their given hat and applies its ‘lense’ to the problem at hand. As you go around the table you will gather six very different perspectives on the same problem. What you’ll find at the end of this exercise is that you’ve magically created a whole new list of possible approaches or solutions to your original problem — you’ve learned to think differently.

Sometimes to generate a breakthrough you need to adopt a different mindset. The ‘Six Hats’ exercise is a useful tool to help you adopt multiple points of view on the same problem.

Interested in becoming a better problem solver? Take our ‘Think Like Sherlock’ problem solving course now co-created with an ex-Scotland Yard detective and former member of the Metropolitan Police’s elite ‘Problem Solving Unit.’

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