Did you know?

A very interesting, insightful and inspirational video on preparing students (and everyone of us) for the challenges of the XXI century.

The presentation is filled with interesting insights on the value of information and it’s rate of adoption, which is fundamental for all of us, who are fundamentally knowledge workers, to understand.

Too Many Hats

hats Ever felt like you were wearing too many hats? Doing too many different things at the same time?

If you do then you know it’s not that easy to step into someone else’s shoes nor try to look at any given topic from different angles.

The Six Thinking Hats® (6TH) method is an analysis technique that helps us to look at a given topic from different perspectives. The usefulness of this approach is that you get a more complete and thorough view on the subject and you often spot issues and discover new approaches that you’d usually miss.

6TH is very effective when multiple participants are involved. In these situations there’s a tendency for people to argue their own point of view. 6TH helps by shifting the focus from argumentation to collaboration, as all participants wear the same hat at any given moment, effectively looking at the issue under discussion from the same point of view.

Reading the book I followed the SQ3R technique and listed the questions I would like to have answered by the time I finished the book.

Here are some of the questions I wrote down after I surveyed the book’s contents:

  • What are the six thinking hats?
  • What does each hat represent?
  • How do I use this technique?
    • Individually
    • In a collaborative environment?
  • How does this relate to parallel thinking?
  • How does it relate to lateral thinking?

Getting to Know the Six Thinking Hats®

The 6TH method is a parallel thinking method and as such, it exposes all sides of the topic under analysis. Under western thinking, if two people disagree on an issue they discuss it trying to have their point of view prevail.

Using parallel thinking, if two people disagree on an issue, their points of view are both exposed in parallel. By looking at the multiple angles of the issue, any inconsistencies can be resolved or fused/merged together into the final solution to the problem.

Edward de Bono proposes using multi-colored hats as a way to represent different points of view. By wearing a hat of a given color, you are prompted to condition your thinking to that particular point of view or frame of mind.

So, what are the 6TH?

  • White Hat – represents neutrality and objectivity. The white hat is concerned with objective facts and figures;
  • Red Hat – represents emotion. The white hat represents the emotional view;
  • Black Hat – represents caution. The black hat identifies the weaknesses in an idea;
  • Yellow Hat – represents positive thinking. The yellow hat identifies positive points in an idea;
  • Green Hat – represents creativity. The green hat represents the generation of new ideas;
  • Blue Hat – represents control. The blue hat is responsible for organizing the thinking process and for the use of the other hats.

Edward de Bono lays out some ground rules for the use of each hat. However, the golden rule is that only one hat can be under analysis at any given time – this is what changes the focus from discussion to cooperation.

Since I usually learn more by asking questions and trying to find the answers to them than by using any other strategy, I have compiled a small list of questions that I find suitable for each hat:

Hat Questions
White Hat
  • What are the facts and figures?
  • What information do we have?
  • What information do we need?
  • What information is missing?
  • What questions do we need to ask?
  • Red Hat
  • What’s your gut reaction?
  • How do you feel about this?
  • Black Hat
  • Why can’t we do this?
  • What are our obstacles?
  • What’s the downside?
  • Yellow Hat
  • How can we do this?
  • What are our leverages?
  • What’s the upside?
  • Green Hat
  • What are additional opportunities?
  • What are additional angles?
  • Blue Hat
  • How should we think about this?
  • How shall we plan our thinking?
  • What’s the best way to use our hats?
  •  

    Using the Six Thinking Hats®

    Another question I had was related to how the 6TH method could (or should) be used in practice. Here’s how I have tried to apply this method personally:

    • Blue starts;
      • State the issue / approach / theme under discussion and the goal for the meeting;
    • Decide on the approach based on the session’s goals;
    • Analyze the topic from the perspective of each hat
      • Use the questions above as a template / guideline;
      • Only one hat can be under analysis at any given moment in time;
    • Continuously validate your strategy (Blue Hat evaluates if the defined approach is still working)
      • Is the team making progress?
      • Should we keep to the approach or does it make sense to switch to a different hat?
      • Should we return to an already used hat to further explore that angle?

    The Six Thinking Hats® is an interesting multi-dimensional approach to problem analysis and decomposition. I find it particularly useful for creative problem solving and as a way to make brainstorming sessions more productive.

    Mind-Mapping

    I clearly remember that one of the things I usually felt throughout my student years (high-school and college mostly) was that somehow the notes I took weren’t quite effective. At times it felt that I almost had to write down everything word for word so I didn’t loose any valuable piece of information – everything seemed important and I had a hard time identifying key concepts and ideas and jotting down just the relevant pieces of information that allowed me, later on, to mentally rebuild the whole idea. I eventually toyed with the idea of learning shorthand, but fortunately I eventually found out about mind-mapping.

    I have been using mind-mapping regularly for several years and it immediately felt a very natural and easy way to persist information in a way that I could trace it’s flow from one idea to the next, allowing me to recall information at a much deeper level. At the same time, note taking required much less granular notes.

    Today, after some years of practice, I find that mind-mapping not only helps me effectively with note taking, it also helps with creative problem solving. I use it for solo and team brainstorming sessions, whenever I am exploring any new subject.

    Creating a mind-map is quite simple:

    1. Get a clean sheet of paper (I usually use plain white paper – no lined or squared paper) and write the topic you’re exploring in the center of the page inside a large circle. This helps clearly identify the subject;
    2. As you explore the subject, write notes on lines that originate from the circle;
    3. As you explore deeper, draw new lines linked to the line with the note that originated the new ideas. This way it’s very easy to persist a line of thinking (and remember it later on);

    I have seen mind-maps where there are few notes and each branch is just a heading/subheading organization with the final branches (the ones furthest from the main topic) representing the facts, but I prefer a more free-form where each branch represents an idea. I usually take a lot of notes as I explore the topic further and further.

    Having used mind-mapping for a number of years now, I find it an indispensable tool for note taking whether I’m exploring possible solutions to a specific problem or whether I’m just studying any given subject.

    SQ3R

     For those of us who have to consume large amounts of technical/professional information and really absorb it, SQ3R is a reading and study system that enhances information retention and absorption.

    The name of this system, SQ3R, is an acronym for it’s five stage process:

    • Survey
    • Question
    • Read
    • Recite
    • Review

    SQ3R helps you create a mental framework that you can use to fit the information you read and to further enrich it with new facts from additional sources.

    • Survey – Survey the document by scanning it’s contents, gathering the necessary information to focus on topics and help set study goals.
      1. Read the title, introduction, summary or a chapter’s first paragraph(s). This helps to orient yourself to how this chapter is organized and to understand the topic’s key points.
      2. Go through each boldface heading and subheading. This will help you to create a mental structure the topic.
      3. Check all graphics and captions closely. They’re there to emphasize certain points and provide rich additional information.
      4. Check reading aids and any footnotes. Emphasized text (italics, bold font, etc.) is typically introduced to catch the reader’s attention or to provide clarification.
    • Question – During this stage, you should note any questions on the subjects contained in the document. I suggest surveying the document again, this time making a note of any questions that you have while scanning each section. These questions become study goals and they will become information you’ll actively search later on while going through each section in detail.
    • Read – Read each section thoroughly, keeping your questions in mind. Try to find the answers and identify if you need additional ones. Mind Mapping can probably help to make sense of and correlate all the information.
    • Recall/Recite – In the recall (or recite) stage, you should go through what you read and try to answer the questions you noted before. I suggest doing this for every section, chapter or topic. It’s in this stage that you consolidate knowledge, so refrain from moving on until you can recall the core information.
    • Review – Reviewing all the collected information is the final step of the process. In this stage you can review the collected information, go through any particular chapter, expand your own notes, or discuss the topics with colleagues and other experts. An excellent way to consolidate information is to present or teach it to someone else.

    The image below presents the SQ3R system as a workflow of tasks, the way I have been applying it.

    SQ3R_v2

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