Six Thinking Hats

October 26th, 2010 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity | Ideas | Innovation | Mind - (8 Comments)

“If you wait for opportunities to occur, you will be one of the crowd”. Edward de Bono

Dr Edward de Bono introduced a simple, but powerful technique called the Six Thinking Hats[1]. The technique outlines different thinking styles that are associated with a different coloured hat. This parallel thinking approach forces each of the participants in a team meeting or focus group to adopt the particular thinking style represented by each coloured hat. By conceptualizing each type of hat, the person focuses on the style of thinking associated with each colour. For example, when wearing the RED hat a person will state what he or she feels about a particular situation. Wearing the YELLOW hat compels people to think about the positive aspects of a topic or situation, while the GREEN hat encourages people to adopt a creative thinking focus. The Six Thinking Hats encourage even the most pessimistic or negative people to think of the positive outcomes of a given situation.  By adopting the Six Thinking Hats technique in meetings or problem solving sessions, participants have found that they achieve a number of outcomes, including:

  1. Efficient meetings where meeting time is cut by one to two thirds of traditional meetings
  2. Productive meetings with solid outcomes generated from different thinking styles that can be explored further
  3. Quickly identifying alternative solutions to problems
  4. Effective thinking techniques where participants experience different perspectives using parallel thinking

A summary of each hat is outlined in the Figure below:

The key factor in successfully using the Six Thinking Hats and applying them in a practical situation is to better understand the sequence that the hats are used. The following diagram shows a typical sequence when using the Six Thinking Hats and applying them in a practical setting or meeting.

When considering a specific problem or topic it is best to start with the WHITE hat as this allows all the background information to be presented and documented. Once the problem or topic is fully defined then the RED hat is used to ask participants how they feel about the problem or situation. Participants’ feelings are documented. The general tendency for a proportion of people in a meeting, at this stage, is to present the negative aspects of the problem or situation, however in this process the next step is to use the YELLOW hat to capture the positive aspects of the problem or situation from all participants. This step is then followed with the BLACK hat when everyone considers the negative aspects of the problem or situation. The BLACK hat is then followed by the GREEN hat where everyone is encouraged to use creative thinking to overcome the negative issues but also develop new alternatives to solving the problems or resolving the situation. The RED hat is used again at this stage to gauge the feelings of participants. Generally, most participants who were previously concerned about the problem or situation would now be feeling more positive after having gone through the process of using the different hats. Finally, it is always appropriate to use the BLUE hat as this allows participants to evaluate whether the process has offered solutions or conclusions. The BLUE hat also provides process control to ensure the right technique or approach was used by participants. If a solution or resolution was not identified then another approach or process would be suggested as more appropriate in solving the problem.

Add your comments on whether you have found the Six Thinking Hats effective in your business and personal life.

Dr John Kapeleris


[1] De Bono, E. (1999) Six Thinking Hats, Back Bay Books, New York

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“In the field of observation chance only favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur

Tacit knowledge has been defined as non-codified, intangible know-how that is acquired through the informal adoption of learned behavior and procedures.  Polanyi describes tacit knowing as involving two kinds of awareness: the focal and subsidiary.  While individuals may be focused on a particular object or process, they also possess a subsidiary awareness that is subliminal and marginal.  Tacit knowing also involves subsception, that is, learning without awareness and this is associated with serendipity.

Serendipity is defined as a random coincidence or accident that triggers an idea or concept when the individual is not actively seeking an idea i.e. without awareness of a problem or need. While a discovery that involves focused awareness is usually termed synchronicity since the individual is actively seeking an idea or a solution to a problem.

Serendipity has resulted in a number of accidental discoveries producing innovations that have contributed to significant value for society. For example, penicillin was discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming when he observed an anomaly on a bacterial culture. Another example of an accidental discovery was Scotchgard by Patsy Sherman when she accidentally spilled a polymer on her tennis shoes. The table below shows a number of innovations resulting from serendipity or synchronicity:

Although accidental discoveries and observations in nature lead to new innovations, the person making the discovery or observation needs to have a mindset that is conducive to identifying the opportunities. Sir Alexander Fleming could have thrown out the bacterial cultures when he found an anomaly, but instead continued to investigate the cultures to determine the cause of the abnormality, as a result of his curious and open mind.

The prepared mind, as stated by Louis Pasteur, is characterized by specific patterns of brain activity that place a person in the right “frame of mind” through the establishment of new pathways or networks of thought. The prepared mind has the ability to sense, understand, decide and act upon observations and opportunities that suddenly appear by chance.

Welter and Egmon in their bookThe Prepared Mind of a Leader describe eight mental skills that can further develop and prepare your mind to identify opportunities, solve problems and enhance decision-making:

  1. Observing – Look for non-conforming information generated by the constantly changing environment, that can provide new ideas and opportunities.
  2. Reasoning – You need to be able to answer “Why?” when you are proposing a course of action.
  3. Imagining – The ability to visualize new ideas and linkages.
  4. Challenging – Challenge your assumptions and test their validity.
  5. Deciding – You need to make timely decisions or influence others’ decisions.
  6. Learning – Continuous learning will move you forward.
  7. Enabling – You need people with the knowledge and ability to progress opportunities.
  8. Reflecting – Allocate the time to think and reflect to determine whether a particular decision was successful.

How are you preparing your mind to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities?

Dr John Kapeleris

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I recently attended a seminar on “Art meets Business” and the key discussion topic was that art can bring creative inspiration to business. I didn’t disagree with this statement, however, when one presenter stated that creativity is synonymous only with the arts, and that business can only access creativity through the arts, I began to challenge this belief.

Creativity is defined as the process by which individuals or groups generate or conceive new ideas, or adapt existing concepts into new principles, in order to solve problems or develop new opportunities. In addition to being a process, creativity can also be an attitude and an ability. I believe that all people can be creative; some express their creativity more than others.

Creativity is not limited to the arts or creative industries. Creativity can also be found in science, engineering and all disciplines and professions.  Being artistic, which is commonly confused with being creative (although both are not mutually exclusive), is about deliberately arranging symbolic, visual or auditory elements in a way that influences and affects senses, emotions and intellect. This could include drawing, painting, music, sculpture, literature, photography, film and drama.

It can be argued that a child being taught to play the violin is not demonstrating creativity – they are just following a technical learning process to apply music knowledge to an instrument – that is, being artistic. True expression of creativity will emerge as the child learns to adapt existing musical concepts on the violin into new improvisations – that is, being creative.

The ongoing challenge is to nurture and stimulate creative thinking and creative problem solving in our work and in our daily lives.

Following I have outlined ten ways to enhance and stimulate your creativity:

  1. Connect with people – creativity is about people, therefore you need to build your network, engage with the right mentors and join creative communities.
  2. Create the right environment – take control of your workspace and create an environment conducive to creative thinking e.g. this could involve setting up a den with a large mahogany desk, a library and a soft leather chair, or it could be a quiet and relaxing retreat to read and think quietly without interruptions
  3. Learn new creativity tools – attend seminars and workshops on creativity, and become familiar with a selection of creativity tools and techniques that you can begin to implement and use (e.g. brainstorming, mindmapping, 6 Thinking Hats, why-why-why, SCAMPER, random word, force field analysis, visualization, synectics, morphological analysis, imagination, intuition)
  4. Expand your mind through reading – read books and articles on creativity, but also references on  personal development
  5. Fun and humour – play games, solve puzzles, attend comedy shows, take up a sport, go to the park, or watch your favourite DVD movies
  6. Take up the arts – learn to draw and paint, learn to play a musical instrument, or participate in drama
  7. Travel and discovery – visit inspiring places such as the Louvre, ancient Greek locations, Tuscany, the pyramids of Egypt, or you can visit your local museum, art gallery, or relaxing holiday destination
  8. Understand the power of your subconscious – take advantage of the alpha state or the power of visualization to enhance your creative abilities
  9. Think on paper – escape from the current dominance of computers by keeping a journal, an ideas notebook, or grab a pen and paper and write down the problems you want to solve and the opportunities you want to develop
  10. Ideas into action – one of the most rewarding activities is to take the ideas you have captured, develop them further and implement them to achieve successful outcomes

Take the creative journey!

Dr John Kapeleris

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Ideation or idea generation is a key driver of the innovation process. So how do we find our best ideas? Many of us generate our best ideas during the morning shower, or while we are listening to music or driving. Sometimes we come up with ideas when we are actively trying to solve problems or when we wake up in the morning. The greatest impediment to extracting value from these ideas is firstly our ability to actively capture these great ideas before the hard work begins to evaluate, harvest and implement these ideas.

Converting ideas into successful outcomes or benefits, i.e. innovations, requires a disciplined approach, although creativity forms the foundation of the process.  A typical idea management process may involve the following steps:

Generating Ideas

Dr Linus Pauling, the dual Nobel Prize Laureate stated “The best way to get a good idea is to get a lot of ideas”. The more ideas you produce the greater the chance of finding a winning idea. Idea generation was popularized by Alex Osborne in his 1953 book “Applied Imagination” where he described the concept of “Brainstorming”. Brainstorming is now widely used as a tool to generate a large number of ideas in a group setting. Furthermore, Tony Buzan’s Mindmapping® technique has also provided the means for individual brainstorming. Individuals or groups have the capacity to come up with ideas when they are in a conducive state or environment, such as relaxing in a quiet and comfortable place or while taking a shower. Relaxation allows the subconscious mind to continue to process information and make connections.

Capturing Ideas

Where do you look for ideas? You don’t need to go far. Ideas already exist within individuals working in an organization or they can be easily sourced from the external environment, including the market, customers, competitors and the Internet. We can improve the process of capturing ideas by:

  • Actively looking for ideas around us through observation and listening e.g. talking to people, newspapers, the environment
  • Building idea sources such as reference books, the Internet, thought leaders
  • Recording and banking ideas in journals, notebooks, electronic databases or mobile phone apps

Discovery through serendipity results in a random coincidence or accident that triggers an idea or concept. An attentive mind is important in recognizing and capturing these random ideas. Alternatively, synchronicity or focused awareness is more powerful since the individual is actively seeking an idea or a solution to a problem.

Constructing and Harvesting Ideas

When ideas are generated and captured they are usually in a raw form and require further constructing or processing into a concept or application. For this to occur a number of creative thinking tools can be used including brainstorming, morphological analysis, scenario building, rearranging, cross-linking or randomizing. The final step involves harvesting the developed ideas that will either, satisfy an existing market need, solve a known problem or provide a new opportunity for further development. At this stage some people will include an incubation step to sleep on the ideas before the evaluation stage.

Evaluating and Protecting Ideas

The previous steps in the idea management process all involve some element of creative input, while, the evaluation stage involves traditional analysis of the ideas using a number of predefined criteria relevant to the individual or the organization. Although, intuition may also play a role.  In evaluating ideas an initial feasibility should include a preliminary market, technical and risk assessment to determine the viability of the opportunity. It should also include an intellectual property search to determine whether someone else has already patented the idea, and to confirm that you have the freedom to operate. This step is followed by determining the value of the idea to the organization and the costs associated with the implementation phase. Paralysis by analysis should be avoided if the idea is to progress to implementation.

Implementing Ideas

One of the most difficult steps is the implementation phase. To develop great ideas and not to action them is the same as not having any ideas at all. Implementation requires planning, hard work and discipline to achieve successful outcomes. Many people underestimate the effort involved in converting their ideas into successful products, services or processes. A typical implementation process may involve:

  • clarifying the objective,
  • developing the plan,
  • identifying key processes and tasks,
  • prioritizing activities,
  • resourcing and budgeting,
  • funding,
  • assigning responsibility, and then
  • doing it!

Developing a compelling business case or business model with a clear path to market is a key factor of success.

Measuring Outcomes and Results

Progress can be monitored using appropriate measures to determine the effectiveness of the idea. Measures include value currencies such as revenue, cost savings, efficiency gains, social benefits and environmental benefits. Remember, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

Your next idea could be the breakthrough innovation, new solution, new product, new service or organisational system that could add value to your organisation or to society.

Dr John Kapeleris

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I have mentioned visualization in a few of my previous postings but wanted to write specifically on how you can use the power of visualization to increase your creative thinking and achieve your goals. Visualization is the technique by which you use your mind to actively and intentionally visualize mental images of situations and behaviours that influence your external being.

Visualization is a technique used commonly amongst successful athletes and sports people. For example, a successful golfer spends time to visualize the perfect stroke over and over again. As a result of repetition of the visualization process the golfer improves his or her golf scores. There is no reason why we couldn’t apply visualization techniques to our personal and work lives. For example, Albert Einstein developed his theory of relativity by visualizing what would happen if he travelled through space on the tip of a light beam. Albert Einstein used visualization techniques to contemplate and test different scenarios.

Following are five steps on how to use visualization to influence your life and your thoughts so that you achieve your goals and desires:

  1. Begin with a relaxed state of mind. Find a quiet environment with a comfortable chair, breath deeply and slowly, relaxing all the muscles in your body and slowly clearing your mind to enter your subconscious.
  2. Create your visualization scene. Use your imagination to take yourself to a location or on a journey that you feel comfortable with. The image could be an exotic location such as a tranquil beach, quiet forest or mountaintop where you feel relaxed. The location could also be your own imagined fantasy environment, such as a distant planet or journey through space.
  3. Visualize your problem, issue or opportunity. Once relaxed begin asking questions of the problem or issue you are trying to solve. If an opportunity try to visualize and play out the scene like a movie.
  4. Wait for the answer or solution to appear. Maintain a relaxed state and wait for the images, ideas or solutions that appear as a result of the visualization.
  5. Emerge slowly from your visualization. Come out of the relaxed visualization state recording or capturing notes in your journal or digital recording device.

The above procedure has been proven to work on numerous occasions in business, sport and personal life. If you don’t get the solution to your problem or new ideas the first time then continue to practice using a slightly different approach. Repetition and discipline in using the technique will result in richer and more vivid images that will continue to provide new ideas, solutions to problems and new opportunities.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Imagination

June 6th, 2010 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity | Mind - (0 Comments)

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Albert Einstein

Imagination is the ability of the mind to create mental images, sensations and concepts, which helps contribute to the understanding of knowledge and the learning process. Children use their imagination as part of their early learning process to translate stories such as fables and fairy tales into vivid images in their minds. As children we do not have any boundaries or barriers. A cardboard box can turn into hours of fun for a child when they pretend it is a red racing car or a time machine.

When we read a novel our imagination is used to evoke images of the story in our minds, experience feelings of the characters and stimulate our senses. As the text is read our mind translates the words into visual images that essentially creates a fantasy world. The interpretation of the text and words of a novel may be different for each individual because each mind perceives the storyline from a different perspective.

Imagination is strong in children, however, as children develop into adults many lose their imagination.  Unless we encourage imagination in children, this ability will dissipate from lack of use, and it may be difficult to revive in later adult life.

It is easy to forget the power of imagination.  People go about their daily lives on autopilot, accepting the status quo and not challenging their current situation. People spend a large proportion of their time complaining and blaming others for their own undesirable situation, instead of taking action. Everyone has some imagination even though it may have been lying dormant for years. By using our imagination we can begin to visualise the life we desire.

Imagination starts with the word “image”. By combining images we already know, we can create something new in our minds. For example, in the 1800’s the fountain pen was created by combining the image of a quill-pen and the inkwell used as a dipping reservoir. Many new ideas emerge through the combination of existing well-known images, a process called constructive imagination.

Everyone can unleash greater imaginative capacity by developing the right mental attitude and making a concerted effort to play with images to create new combinations and connections. Set aside some time to play and create new worlds through your imagination. Who knows, you may develop the idea for the next blockbuster movie, best selling novel or new product.

What are some examples of how you use your imagination?

Dr John Kapeleris

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The interaction with people throughout your life can influence and determine your future path. My parents and grandparents were a strong influence in my younger years, guiding me and providing me with direction and knowledge. Many of my values and beliefs originated from my parents and grandparents, predominantly through story-telling in the evening and during bed-time. My parents and grandparents were my mentors in my early life.

Throughout my education and career I would source new mentors who would continue to influence me and guide me through my learning and development. One of my career mentors was Dr David Wyatt who was also the Chief Executive of a company where I worked as a senior manager. He was a person who could inspire you to seek new ideas, and continually learn and develop. He would motivate you in your work and make you feel positive and energised. David was also a wealth of knowledge and creative inspiration. He provided me with frequent articles of useful information that would challenge my thinking and provide me with new knowledge. David would also challenge me to think beyond the immediate problem or opportunity. When I was working for David I just couldn’t wait to get to work on Monday morning so that I could experience something new, exciting and motivating. My personal development at that time in my life soared significantly.

In another example, after leaving a company that I worked in for 12 years I employed the services of a personal development mentor to guide me through my next career transition. I would meet with the coach on a weekly basis over three months and discuss my progress in building and enhancing my skills for my next challenge in life. My mentor would give me self discovery exercises, references to read and small development projects to complete between the meeting sessions. My mentor also opened my mind to a wealth of opportunities that I would investigate and develop in later months and years.

Finding the right mentor or business coach can have a significant effect on your life. A mentor can teach and guide you through your life journey and can be one of the best ways to achieve personal success. For example, a business mentor can provide you with the tools and resources to grow your business or to teach you the strategies and processes (tricks of the trade) for a new business opportunity. In a recent experience, without the influence of an internet business coach I would not have been able to develop my internet-based business skills. Can you identify a person in your domain or area of interest who has been successful and would make a great mentor? Your next step is to contact the person via telephone or a written letter and request whether they can be your mentor. Don’t be afraid; the worst thing that can happen is that they say “No”. If this occurs you then look for another possible mentor. For additional mobile information, consult the experts when it comes to samsung galaxy specifications.

Building networks of people who can add value, share ideas and build collaborations or alliances should be one of your key goals, if you are going to succeed in any business or creative endeavour. Your networks will become a source of ideas, knowledge, support, motivation, channels to other networks, access to markets, and even revenue sources. How do you then set about building a network? The first step is to become a better networker by improving your networking skills and overcoming fear and low self-esteem. Following is a simple six-step approach to networking:

  1. Identify networking opportunities and events such as meetings, luncheons, seminars and conferences. Target specific events with a topic of interest related to your definite purpose or goal.
  2. Take the responsibility to interact first. Remember the worst thing that can happen to you is a polite rejection. Network the room as much as possible. Don’t stick to a single person, or remain alone at the outer perimeter of the room, which is common amongst people with low self-esteem. Try to join a group of people who are already interacting or look for someone who is alone.
  3. Have a topic of interest to discuss e.g. a topic from the seminar or conference, or ask the other person a question about their job or work. I always like to begin with “Hi, my name is John and I work for …”. After the other person responds with their name and organisation, I immediately follow with a question or statement related to the seminar or conference. If the networking occurs before the event I tend to ask a general question such as “Are you looking forward to listening to the speaker?”, “What attracted you to this seminar?” or “What do you do for a living?”. It is also a good idea to have a prepared 2-3 minute “Elevator Pitch” describing what you do. For example I say, “I put money into people’s pockets by helping them take their ideas to market”. This generally grabs the person’s attention.
  4. Exchange business cards or contact details. This is generally done during the introduction or after you have found out more about the person. Ensure that you offer your business card first as the other person will generally reciprocate. If the other person does not have a business card write their contact information in a notebook or on a piece of paper. It is also a good idea to write where you met and any follow-up action items or notes about the person on the back of the business card. Don’t forget to record their details, as soon as possible, in a contact database together with notes about the person, where you met and any follow-up actions.
  5. Cultivate your relationship through maintaining regular contact. This could be done through the use of a combination of tools and processes, such as regular email, the online tool LinkedIn, a contact database or by periodically catching up face-to-face for coffee, lunch or at upcoming meetings and seminars. I use LinkedIn quite extensively as this allows me to build a network of people very easily. It also has an email function that allows me to send individual or group messages, and also includes a short message function linked to Twitter. For more specific profile building of my contacts I use a database such as Microsoft Business Contact Manager which is linked to Outlook. I like to use a Relationship Maintenance Schedule (in spreadsheet format) for my more important contacts where I build in a schedule of activities, including periodically sending my contacts articles of interest, links to interesting internet sites, or provide them with business leads and new opportunities.
  6. Become a network architect for others. The ultimate goal is to become the “go-to” person for introducing others to people you know. You essentially become the “intellectual gravity” or thought leader for a given domain and its networks, by attracting like-minded individuals or people seeking knowledge and inspiration.

Napoleon Hill in “Think and Grow Rich” described the power of the Mastermind. The mastermind principle is defined as the coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people for the achievement of a definite purpose. A mastermind group can be a powerful way to achieve your definite purpose or goal. I have joined a few mastermind groups each having a specific purpose or goal where the contribution of the knowledge, experience and united spirit of all members can catapult you to the next level of achievement. Members of a mastermind group will have a common interest where each person is willing to discuss topics openly and contribute knowledge and experience. The mastermind groups that I belong to meet regularly and have formal and informal agendas for prior preparation and subsequent discussion. A number of outcomes have emerged from my mastermind groups, including sharing knowledge and ideas, creating new start-up businesses, identifying new commercial opportunities, and developing solutions for business and community problems. Some of the most successful people in the world (e.g. Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie) have relied on their mastermind groups to guide them or provide wisdom and inspiration.

Another example of a mastermind alliance is that of the creative community which dates back to the Middle Ages. For example, Leonardo da Vinci worked in a master’s studio (Verrocchio’s workshop) with like-minded people to learn his trade, and share knowledge and technical skills, including drafting, chemistry, metallurgy, metal working, plaster casting, leather working, mechanics and carpentry, as well as the artistic skills of drawing, painting, sculpting and modelling. The Parisian Salons of the 1920’s and 1930’s are other examples of creative communities, where people like Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Thornton Wilder would get together informally at the Parisian apartments of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, to fuel their creative inspiration. You can also locate and join a mastermind group or creative community that focuses on your domain or area of interest. Searching the internet, reading trade journals or popular magazines can identify mastermind groups or creative communities. You can also ask your contacts through your networks if they belong to any mastermind groups or creative communities. If you cannot locate a particular mastermind group or creative community then you might consider forming your own.

Make it a great life!

Dr John Kapeleris

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