Creative thinking with the six hats

blue and green peacock feather

Many years ago, a man owed a large sum of money to an old, ugly and mean loan shark who fancied his debtor’s beautiful daughter. The Shylock then decided to offer the man a deal that would cancel the debt if he could marry his debtor’s daughter, a bitter pill that neither the man nor his daughter wanted to swallow.

The loan shark said that he would place two black and white pebbles in a bag, from which the girl would pick one. If she picked the black pebble, the debt would be written off but the loan shark would then marry her. But if she picked the white, the debt would also be cancelled but the daughter wouldn’t have to marry him.

So, standing on a pebble-strewn path in the man’s garden, the loan shark picked up two pebbles. The girl noticed that he picked up two black pebbles and placed them both into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick one from the bag.

In this situation, the girl naturally had three choices, which were to: a) refuse to pick any pebble from the bag, b) take both pebbles out and expose the loan shark for cheating and c) pick a pebble from the bag knowing full well it was black and sacrifice herself for her father’s freedom. Which choice should she make?

She drew out a pebble from the bag, and before looking at it ‘accidentally’ dropped it among the other pebbles on the ground, saying, “Oh, how clumsy of me! Never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”

The pebble left in the bag was obviously black. And as the loan shark didn’t want to be exposed, he had to play along as if the pebble the girl dropped was white, and clear her father’s debt.

The story above illustrates creative thinking and that it is always possible to overcome a tough situation through it, and not giving in to the apparent options you think you have to pick from. Creative thinking is the process of nurturing imagination to allow you to figure out a way or think out of the box. It allows you to invent, create and communicate fresh ideas that make change or solution possible.

Hugh Macleod once noted that everyone is born creative. However, not everyone is able to deploy creative thinking into solving problems. Creative thinking makes it possible for you to take charge of situations and avoid the usual tendency to blame others. Situations and people will continue to be imperfect but the way you respond to them will always make the difference.

Just imagine how creative thinking can enrich you since the quality of your thought determines to a large extent the value of the life you live. Creative thinking makes you become self-reliant, helps you to be truer to yourself, enables you to tap from your hidden talents to discover opportunities, makes you feel satisfied and empowers you to cope with problems and difficulties, which everyone is dealing with anyway.

As a way of promoting creative thinking and helping people to approach it more systematically, Edward de Bono developed the “Six Thinking Hats” (a book he wrote in 1985) that are easy to wear in order to be focused and productive. These hats are associated with colours and one can easily switch from one to the other to gain fresh insights.

The “White Hat” is about the facts and information that you already know about a situation at hand; knowledge is light and it clears the fog. The “Yellow Hat”, on the other hand, represents radiance and optimism, focusing on the opportunities and merits of the situation you are in, making you see the silver lining in every cloud.

While the “Red Hat” is for expressing feelings, emotions and opinions, which are important because they are natural, the “Blue Hat” manages and controls those feelings while looking at the bigger picture. For instance, it is natural to feel tired and express frustration while working but thinking of the reward makes you ignore the feeling to keep your eyes on the ball of result.

The “Green Hat” explores alternatives and brainstorms on new ideas, options and solutions. The “Black Hat”, otherwise known as the devil’s voice, is about being realistic, practical and cautious as you consider how things might go wrong with the dangers and problems associated with the supposed solutions.

It is good to think but it is much better to think creatively.