April 19, 2018

6 thinking hats and its use in product management

6 thinking hats and its use in product management
Nils Janse
Nils Janse
Founder & CEO
2 min read

What are the 6 thinking hats

The six thinking hats is an excellent framework by Edward de Bono for product managers having discussions that are more structured and balanced.

The idea is that all thoughts and statements can be put in one of six categories. As a pedagogical device, the categories are represented by six hats.

Blue hat - The Big Picture - Thinking about thinking, where are we on the agenda, what questions should we discuss?

White hat - Facts & Information - Identifying and presenting information that is needed, what do we need to know to have an informed discussion?

Green hat - Alternatives and creativity - Coming up with ideas for answers to the questions posed, what if we do it like this?

Black hat - Critical Judgement - Highlighting problems and risks, coming up with cons for different options

Yellow hat - Positive Judgement - Emphasizing upsides and benefits, the good things, coming up with pros for different options

Red hat - Feelings & Intuition - Gut instinct on what to do, either in the early phase of the discussion or later on taking pros and cons into account, what option do you think is the best?

Most discussions benefit from having a facilitator that adds direction regarding what hat the participants should put on.

  • If one option seems too good to be true, the facilitator can say "let's put on the black hat, what are the problems or risks with this option?"
  • If it seems the team is stuck with two bad options, the facilitator can say "let's put on the green hat, are there any other options here?"
  • If it is not clear what it is the team are discussing, the facilitator can say "let's put on the blue hat, what is the question we are trying to answer here?"
  • And so on...

6 thinking hats in product management

Adding structure, balance, and direction to a discussion can be incredibly powerful, and allow the team to make better decisions, in less time, while still having a high degree of involvement.

But this is a hard thing to do, especially as soon as the group grows beyond 2-3 people. Even for an experienced facilitator, it can be hard, e.g., to tune into whether someone in the group is sitting on a killer pro/con argument or an alternative solution that for some reason is not coming into light.

The mission of Delibr is

to reduce the friction that comes as more people are involved in making a decision

We have explicitly designed the entire tool with the six thinking hats in mind to support this kind of facilitation and make it easier and more effective. All the concepts of the app map directly to the six thinking hats, as per below

  • Questions - Blue hat
  • Comments - White hat
  • Options - Green hat
  • Pros - Yellow hat
  • Cons - Black hat
  • Ratings - Red hat

Because of this, participants are naturally encouraged to engage with all hats, which makes the facilitator role easier. Especially for a team that has used Delibr a couple of times, this can be incredibly effective.

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