During my undergraduate internship I came across an exercise called “Six Thinking Hats”. I would like to share this with you because it really changed the way I viewed decision-making and looking at the world from various perspectives. This way of thinking forces us to move outside of our comfort zone and view a situation and/or decision from various perspectives. Each hat represents a different style of thinking.
MindTools.com defines each of the “thinking hats” as follows:
With this thinking hat you focus on the data available. Look at the information you have, and see what you can learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge, and either try to fill them or take account of them. This is where you analyze past trends, and try to extrapolate from historical data.
'Wearing' the red hat, you look at problems using intuition, gut reaction, and emotion. Also try to think how other people will react emotionally. Try to understand the responses of people who do not fully know your reasoning.
Using black hat thinking, look at all the bad points of the decision. Look at it cautiously and defensively. Try to see why it might not work. This is important because it highlights the weak points in a plan. It allows you to eliminate them, alter them, or prepare contingency plans to counter them.
Black Hat thinking helps to make your plans 'tougher' and more resilient. It can also help you to spot fatal flaws and risks before you embark on a course of action. Black Hat thinking is one of the real benefits of this technique, as many successful people get so used to thinking positively that often they cannot see problems in advance. This leaves them under-prepared for difficulties.
The yellow hat helps you to think positively. It is the optimistic viewpoint that helps you to see all the benefits of the decision and the value in it. Yellow Hat thinking helps you to keep going when everything looks gloomy and difficult.
The Green Hat stands for creativity. This is where you can develop creative solutions to a problem. It is a freewheeling way of thinking, in which there is little criticism of ideas. A whole range of creativity tools can help you here.
The Blue Hat stands for process control. This is the hat worn by people chairing meetings. When running into difficulties because ideas are running dry, they may direct activity into Green Hat thinking. When contingency plans are needed, they will ask for Black Hat thinking, etc.
Now let’s apply this new way of thinking…
Issue: Should I go to graduate school/the next steps for x career?
White Hat: Conduct occupational research. Fill in the gaps of your knowledge about your given field. Utilize resources such as Vault.com and Occupational Outlook Handbook to try and find out all different kinds of information about your desired career. Sample questions: Is graduate school required? Are there any certificates/certifications I need? What is the average salary? Is this profession in high demand? What graduate programs exist? How long are the programs? How much do they cost?
Red Hat: When you use you intuition, what is you gut reaction? Sample: I love working with students, and I am fascinated by career development theory. I would absolutely love to be able to counsel and assist students in their career decision making and help students figure out their future and help with the conflicts they face along the way.
Black Hat: When you look at this decision with a critical eye, this is where many individuals have the most amount of difficulty. Sample: Every time I make a “pros and cons” list this the difficulty in job availability for my desired job in the current economy is the biggest negative that I come across. It makes me very uneasy to think about going for a two years Masters Program, coming out with a lot of loans, and then not being able to find a job to pay off the loans. I am torn because this is my passion and what I truly want to do as a future career, but I fear that I will not be able to find a job. But the “Red Hat” in me is saying that if I work hard enough and prove to a prospective employer that I am a perfect fit for their school, that I will be able to succeed.
Yellow Hat: This is the “hat” that helps me think positively because x career is truly what I want to do with my life. All of the benefits and values that I see in a career in x career are such a compelling force in my career research. Sample: I can picture myself working in a counseling setting helping students throughout their college career and helping them to prepare for their futures and how to help them to be as prepared as possible to succeed in the world of work. When you envision yourself working every day in your profession and can actually picture yourself doing this and loving every minute of it, this is the “yellow hat” in me that pushes me to pursue my desired field.
Green Hat: How do I come up with a creative solution? Sample: My creative solution has been to follow my dream and pursue career counseling, but also make sure I have the transferrable skills and the experience to apply my background across numerous careers and settings.
Blue Hat: The blue hat is where many people have constant conflict. Many times it keeps redirecting you from the red and yellow hats, back to the problems you reach when you think about the black hat. Sample: In a desired profession you may be torn between the job market and the likelihood of getting a specific job in New York versus you true passion of becoming x, and how you can see all of the benefits this would bring to your life. The red and yellow hats may be a much stronger force compelling your decision, but the black hat is a whiny voice that may advise you to proceed with caution.
We are always in a constant state of learning and becoming, and we have to be open to multiple ways of thinking and viewing the world. Many of our decisions are not “black and white” and fall into a gray area where many different factors need to be considered. Remember, to take a step back sometimes and look at each decision (whether it be something as large as a prospective career choice, or something smaller) from many different perspectives, and most important DO YOUR RESEARCH!
-Lauren Behr, Assistant Director