Harness the Thinking Power of Your Team to Create Great Annual Plans

By Alan Gehringer

dateSat, Nov 11, 2017 @ 09:30 AM

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have.” - Emil Chartier

It is the time of year to prepare for annual planning.  This is part of the plan rhythm of the Think, Plan, Do cycle.  As part of the plan rhythm, it is necessary to develop new priorities for the year but also to review your 3-5 Year Key Thrusts and Winning Moves.  If the winning moves you have in play are not panning out, or the idea bench is low, it is time to brainstorm and discover new ones.

Several years ago, I had the sincere pleasure to be introduced to one of Edward De Bono’s close protégés, George Borowsky, and to go through the training on Six Thinking Hats, a tool developed by Edward De Bono as a method to promote parallel thinking.  Traditionally, the main methodology behind western thinking came from the twenty-three hundred year old Greek premise of “Gang of Three” and is based on argument.  Six Thinking Hats is a different approach and a very effective way to develop many ideas in a short period of time while extracting the best thinking from your team.

Traditional brainstorming meetings usually last too long and waste a lot of time. There is also a lot of miscommunication, thinking at cross-purposes, negativity, damaged egos and hurt feelings. The Six Thinking Hats method is different in that it promotes creative thinking by getting everyone to think in the same direction rather than arguing or debating each idea as it is presented.  The result is creativity and an abundance of ideas as well as a better use of time.

To develop new ideas, winning moves and key thrusts for your long term and annual plans, it is necessary to encourage high performance team thinking.  Six Thinking Hats is a way to think more completely and do your critical thinking in a shorter period. The good news is that most teams can learn the process in fifteen minutes or less, and it is extremely simple to use.

“Time is the scarcest resource, and, unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed.” - Peter Drucker

The six hats used in the process are:

  1. Blue Hat – Managing the thinking process
  2. White Hat – Information available & needed
  3. Red Hat – Intuition and feeling
  4. Black Hat – Caution, difficulties, and problems
  5. Yellow hat – Benefits and feasibility
  6. Green hat – Alternatives and creative concepts

You can structure the sequence of the hats in many ways.  It is similar to arranging the chords on a guitar to create a song.  The use of the hat is the same, but the arrangement is different and can produce very different results.  Not every hat is used for every meeting and some hats may be used multiple times.  There are suggested sequences based on the intent of the meeting, but you can make up your own sequence based on how you want to arrange the thinking 

For example, to conduct a brainstorming session to discover new ideas, you might use the blue hat first to organize the thinking process, then the white hat to discuss what you know and determine what information is needed, then move onto the green hat to discover new ideas, possibilities, alternatives, enhancements and ignite the creativity of the team.  The key is to get everyone thinking the same way for each segment of the session.  You can use both individual think as well as group think when running through the sequence. 

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas.  I’m frightened of the old ones.” - John Cage 

Six Thinking Hats is a powerful and efficient way to optimize the brainpower of your team to develop the best ideas.  When it comes right down to it, we all have similar resources available to us; it is the power, creativity and ability to harness the thinking that truly sets one organization apart from another

So, try it in your next meeting and let me know what you think.  On the other hand, if you already use the Six Thinking Hats method, drop me a line and share your experiences.

Wishing you good luck with your planning and a successful year,


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Annual Planning Guide

Alan Gehringer


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