Why Not? A story about those who dare to be different…

Over the years I have had the wonderful opportunity of facilitating brainstorming sessions.  One of my favourite tools to use, is Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats Method.  Our behaviour, not our words, is the reflection of who we are.  Six Thinking Hats is a brilliant tool to structure in an objective way to include the input from the individuals participating in the session and can give insight into the reflection of their personalities.  The method refers to six hats that when we “wear them” we are obligated to think in a specific way.  The blue hat is the leader hat that will control the discussion and the ground rules (only the facilitator will wear this hat during the entire exercise), the white hat requires pure objectivity and data driven comments, the red hat is our emotions and how we feel about the exercise, the yellow hat is for positive thinking, the black hat is for negative thinking or challenges we encounter during the solution process and the green hat is for innovative thinking or often referred to as “out of the box thinking”.

What follows are a few social conclusions that I have found in this exercise that relates to the teams’ general behaviour.

  • White hat feedback can generate resistance or stress as reality often does.
  • Red hat or emotions need to be taken into consideration before taking a decision.  As a rule of thumb, when something does not feel right, it is not right.  So, emotions toward the solution are as important as the solution itself and need to be taken into consideration.
  • Yellow hat feedback is quite common as we often strive to be accepted by the team.
  • Black hat feedback is the most common one as it is always easier to complain about or challenge any change to the current status quo.
  • Green hat feedback is less common since creative thinking is usually not motivated at a younger age.  Also, innovative ideas generate social resistance to change.

Challenges vs. Opportunities

I can conclude that just telling the team, “we need to start thinking out of the box” is as naïve as that famous Nancy Reagan slogan from the 80’s “Just say no to drugs”.  To find a solution and implementing it, is a complex process as we are a complex race.  However, this complexity is for us to be aware of and should never be an excuse to not think about change.

Creative thinking sometimes comes to us motivated by live challenges that are addressed as opportunities. For example: Timothy, a man in his mid-forties was diagnosed years ago with multiple sclerosis and, as a certified chemist, he understood that standard medication often creates more problems than it resolves.  He decided to do extensive research about how he could improve his condition as it cannot be cured.  Healthy eating was the best option according to his findings.  He started modifying his eating habits and the results were amazing.  He still manages to live a normal independent life and his findings helped him to create a professional path into becoming a wellness consultant that helps people to achieve extraordinary goals by modifying their eating habits.

Jennifer, a very creative woman, was living in a less than fortunate marriage where she struggled economically for several years.  Out of desperation, she came up with the idea to use her creativity to start an online business selling her textile range of table runners, lamp shades and other household products to achieve economic freedom and to free herself from that relationship and move on with her life. 

Mike has been playing beach volleyball all his life and every summer models came to his town and received lessons from local players.  He and his best friend came up with the idea of creating a beach volleyball academy that allowed them to continue doing what they loved, earn some money and meet beautiful girls.  Well, the academy has been running for more than 5 years now, allowing Mike to have a steady weekend income and he managed to marry one of those models, a kind-hearted woman who adores him.

John hit rock bottom finding himself completely bankrupt and living in his car three years ago.  He is one of those guys whose personality shines through him.  He lives in Cape Town and often found tourists asking questions about where to go.  He started long conversations with them and provided them with helpful information with a smile.  One of those grateful tourists told him once “you should become a tourist guide”.  The next day he enrolled in a course and became a certified tourist guide.  Now he owns a tourist guide company and is enjoying every moment of it and he still guides tourists personally.

Six Hats of Society

Changes are difficult to achieve as we need to understand how ideas evolve and how the implementation process works.  The six hats exist in our society and we must recognize them in our path.  The White Hats will be what we commonly refer to as wake-up calls or the ugly truth.  We cannot start any change process if we are not aware of this.  There is a general order of things or Blue Hats in each society.  This represents the rules of the game that we cannot hide from.  A wise man would often say to me that if the heart is good, the head will always be in decent shape.  We must ensure that emotions do not cloud our creative thinking.  Make sure that you periodically do a sanity check to the Red Hat as this is our emotional thermometer.  In our lives we need Yellow Hats that motivates us while driving change and Black Hats that challenges us into not settling for the first idea that comes into our minds.  Most importantly, we must surround ourselves with Green Hats that motivates creative thinking into a permanent habit.  All Hats are important and we should be thankful we have them in our lives.  Next time we propose a change and someone asks but why should we change?  We can reply with an answer that if we repeat it often enough, it will set us apart from the pack as a true outlier:  Why not?  Cheers!

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