Brainstorming for everyone

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Design practice | No Comments


Edward de Bono is one of my heroes.

I groan when the loudest people take over a brainstorming session. People who jump in first are rewarded more than reticent people in our society “even though there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas,” according to Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

As a design professional (and introvert), I’ve participated in hundreds of brainstorming sessions, and I find that most are ineffective. People struggle to contribute in groups because

  • English is their second language
  • They need more time to plan and prepare
  • They need a structured process to generate ideas
  • Loud and dominant voices drown out other valid ideas

Edward de Bono’s process that is explained in his book Six Thinking Hats, provides the structure and space for all voices. All ideas are equal and valid.

Imagine a brainstorming session to choose your next vacation. Fun! It does involve role-playing, so the objective is to consciously change your behavior to fit the role (color hat). The whole group wears one color hat at a time (time the sessions to stay on schedule) to collect the following categorical ideas.

1. Wear the WHITE hat

Lay out all the facts, figures, information known and unknown. Get the hard data down.

2. Wear the RED hat

Explore the feelings, intuition and emotions. Intuition need not be backed up by logic. Be in the moment and genuine.

3. Wear the BLACK hat

Use your best judgment, caution and logic. Recognize when ideas don’t fit the facts.

4. Wear the YELLOW hat

Find the benefits and reasons why it will work out. Find something of value in “what is.”

5. Wear the GREEN hat

Let yourself be creative and explore all possibilities, alternatives and what is interesting.

The facilitator wears the BLUE hat

This is the process-control role. Anyone can play this role at any time. For example, one could say “Putting on my blue hat, I feel we should do some more green-hat thinking at this point.” Or “Wearing my blue hat, that’s black-hat thinking—and we’re wearing our green hats now.”  But when all the hats are worn and all the information is gathered, the blue hat helps sort out the results by stating conclusions that the group has come to.

Find out how you can use this method and increase your creative thinking. You’ll never go back to free-form brainstorming again. Edward claims that once your group gets good at it, it cuts down on meeting times as well.

Call Barb Rowan Design if you’d like us to facilitate a Six Thinking Hat session, 206-941-0840.

Six Thinking Hats book

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