The 6 Emotional-Basket-Case Thinking Hats

Balloon HatsThe most challenging aspect of being a project manager is dealing with (mostly) humans. They’re emotional, unpredictable and down right irrational at times! (Not me, of course . . . the OTHERS!) Out of what appears to be intense frustration with the whack-a-mole fashion in which humans approach creative thinking and problem-solving, Edward de Bono created a straight-forward and elegant tool called the Six Thinking Hats®. Each hat is a different color and invites the thinker to adopt a different point of view. Wearing the various hats enables us to break out of a rut and view a situation from a number of perspectives. Here’s how it works. You take on each hat’s perspective try like heck to think about the situation from that perspective instead of your normal bias. While the Six Thinking Hats® tool works astonishingly well as designed, during the intensity and mood swings of a recent project I began to contrive an alternative version for dealing with human emotion. Let me know what you think.

The Yellow-belly Hat – This is the hat of cowardice, the hat to wear when you want to avoid dealing with an unpleasant situation or having a difficult conversation with someone who is bugging the stuffing out of you. Works well when dealing with upper-management.

The Green with Jealousy Hat – This hat comes in handy when someone you thought was a total loser strikes it big and you really don’t feel like offering them your heartfelt congratulations. It’s also handy when the success of dear friends and colleagues whom you’d always assumed were lesser than you starts to exceed your own dismal success. Keep this one handy when the most inept person on your team is promoted to your boss.

The Red with Rage Hat – VERY handy when the blood rushes from your brain to your appendages, leaving little or no capacity for rational thinking or behavior. This is the hat to wear when you are going to say something that you are sure to regret a nanosecond or two later. Also quite useful when you are writing a nasty email or bitching out some poor vendor over the phone as it’s much easier to take such drastic action while under the anger-induced illusion that the other person is a jerk you are completely justified in whatever reptilian behavior you are engaged in. It’s pretty handy while driving, too!

The “But My Intention was Pure” White Hat – Usually a good follow up to any of the distasteful behaviors brought about by the Red, Yellow or Green Hats, above. Impact and intention are two different things. If I accidentally run you over with my Scion XB are you still hurt? You bet! Intention doesn’t remove impact, and it’s our impact that we need to deal with. The temptation to hide out in intention is incredibly strong, but focusing on impact is far more effective. Give it a whirl next time someone lets you know that you hurt their feelings. “I did it for the good of the team” just doesn’t cut it.

The Black Night of the Soul Hat – Comes in handy during the darkest days of a project when you start to wonder “Is this really worth it?”, “What does it all mean?” and “Are we really just blobs of protoplasm clinging to a rock hurtling through space?”

The Got-the-Blues Hat – For those depressing moments when you realize that we really ARE just blobs of protoplasm clinging to a rock hurtling through space.

DeBono forgot one very important hat – the “I’m throwing down a line of bull so thick you’d better be wearing hip-waders” Brown Hat.  This comes in especially handy during discussions of schedule.

Your thoughts?. I’m always up for some insights on how to deal with the consequences of the biochemical soup coursing through my body and still get the project done!


1 thought on “The 6 Emotional-Basket-Case Thinking Hats”

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    I’ve found DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats to be especially effective in facilitating team discussions through difficult issues. Introduce the concept, ask everyone to comment wearing that hat for a set period of time, then shift colors for a continued discussion. What this also does is provide a shorthand means to communicate during subsequent interactions. Somebody in the midst of a logical discussion may alert others by saying, “Hey, I’m going to put my red hat on for a moment!” Everybody then understands why that person is emotional.

    Kimberly’s modifications in this post are a hoot, perhaps more so for individuals to think of privately and give themselves a break.

    Randy Englund

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