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Edward Debono gave us one of the greatest tools for creative thinking and problem solving with his “Six Thinking Hats”. The idea of looking at a situation through different lenses, perspectives or wearing different ‘hats’ can also be applied to create a ‘master strategy’ you can use to plan for handling difficult or challenging conversations.

The idea is to frame the situation exclusively from each of four different perspectives (we need two less than Mr Debono), wearing each of the four ‘hats’ and thinking about it sequentially, one thinking hat at a time.

Each of the four Constructive hats can be distilled to a single core concept:

 

  • IT – The  achievement hat – The task or goal before you
  • I – The self actualising hat – The opportunity for growth
  • YOU – The humanistic/encouraging hat – The personal opportunity for gowth of  others
  • WE – The affiliative hat – The relationships involved

 

 

Using the four hats methodically one after the other, invites you to ask the following questions:

 

IT:  The achievement hat 

  • What do I want from this interaction, what outcome do I want to achieve?
  • What’s my longer term goal in this situation, what’s the ‘long game’
  • What do I know about what others want and why?
  • What is best for the (team, department, organisation, customers, community, other stakeholders i.e. going meta to the personal concerns involved), how do our values inform this situation, is there a higher order common purpose we can find?
  • What are the actions, the steps, required to achieve that goal, what will I have to do first, before, during and after the conversation?

 

I:  The self actualising hat 

  • What’s the opportunity for me to grow in how I work towards this goal?
  • What makes me feel anxious, annoyed, frustrated, or other negative emotions in the pit of my stomach when I think about this situation? What are my hot buttons around this?
  • What do I need to step up to and manage about myself, what do I have to own and accept responsibility for (actions, attitudes, beliefs) in order that I achieve the goal I described?
  • What would be the long term benefits of me growing in this way?

 

YOU: The humanistic/encouraging hat

  • What could the other parties involved gain if we achieve this goal?
  • What support will I need to achieve this goal, what support am I willing to give?
  • What do I need others to bring to the table, to step up to and manage about themselves in order that we achieve this goal and what’s my role in making it possible/easier for them to do that?
  • What would be the long term benefits of them growing in this way?

 

WE:  The affiliative hat

  • How can I address trust between us, on what basis can I ask for it and how much trust am I willing to give?
  • How can I demonstrate respect despite our differences and what are my expectations of mutual respect in return?
  • How would I conduct this interaction if the goal was not the short term outcome I’d specified above, but rather the goal was to make it easier to get these sort of outcomes with this party/ies in the future?

 

Author, Marshall Cowley, Senior Consultant, Dattner Grant