Whatever innovation activity you decide to start, it always has to start with idea generation. It is the most interesting and, experts would say, the easiest part of the ideation and innovation process. Idea generation is a part of the ideation process where your employees are engaged in a fun and creative way to contribute with their ideas. Usually, it results in a vast number of ideas. Identifying the most promising ideas to implement is the much harder part, yet different ideation techniques enable the reduction of ideas at the beginning of the ideation process.
During the idea generation, you can involve your employees in close collaboration to explore the idea potential and prepare ideas sufficiently to be a candidate for the next phase of the ideation process. To explore the potential of an idea, De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats method can be of great assistance in deciding whether you should or shouldn’t proceed with the idea. At the same time, you will efficiently engage your innovation team in collaboration and refinement of the idea.
Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono
The Six Thinking Hats method was developed by a leader in the field of creative thinking - Edward De Bono, back in 1985. It is a simple and effective method based on lateral thinking, commonly known as brainstorming and decision-making method.
The method explains the six thinking styles, each represented by a different colored hat. Each hat represents a different perspective. It can be used during the idea generation process to provide an in-depth analysis of the idea potential. It will help your innovation team to be more productive and focused on the idea by taking the different standpoints. Also, the analysis obtained by this method can be used for the decision-making process. To conclude, the main value of this method lies in its ability to highlight different perspectives of the ideas, to refine them further and prepare them for the next step of the ideation process.
White Hat (Data, Facts, Figures)
The White thinking Hat offers a neutral questioning approach that focuses on the available data and facts regarding the idea. Questions related to this hat can be “what is the available information?” and “what are the facts we have?”. The aim of these questions is to provide objective data, facts and figures about the idea to be discussed.
Red (Emotions and Feelings)
The Red Hat represents feelings and improves the insight into the ideas using your intuition, gut reaction and emotion. When using this hat your team will be able to express their emotions and feelings about the idea. The questions that can be asked during this part are “what do you feel about the idea?” and “what is your gut reaction toward the idea?”. The aim of red hat is not the understanding of the reason behind these feelings, but different emotional reactions regarding the idea.
Black (Caution and Risks)
Using the Black Hat, your innovation team will be navigated to think about the ideas cautiously and defensively. The aim of this approach is to focus on warnings, risks or cautions and spot difficulties and weak points. The questions that can be asked during this discussion are “what are the potential risks of the idea?” and “why the idea might not work?”. The purpose of this hat is to highlight the weaknesses of the idea and eliminate them, along with refinement and improvement of the ideas.
In contrast to the Black Hat, the Yellow Hat questions logical optimistic assessment of an idea. It improves the understanding of the advantages and benefits that certainly helps you identify the value of the idea. The questions associated with this hat are: “what are the advantages of the ideas” and “why do you think this idea is good?”
The green hat represents creative thinking with the objective to generate new ideas, possibilities and alternatives out of the existing ideas. With this hat, you can develop new solutions to previously defined idea issues or to look up for new ideas from a creative perspective.
The blue hat is associated with an overview of the idea and it represents process control. The blue hat organizes the next steps, proposes an action plan and sets objectives of the idea. It is also used to summarize and conclude the potential of the idea.
Applying the Six Thinking Hats in Idea Generation
The Six Thinking Hats method can be used early in the idea generation process. By organizing the thinking process using the Six Hats method, an organization can ensure the idea analysis from different standpoints . This leads us to the conclusion that each participant of the idea generation process needs to have the opportunity to “wear” each hat in order to achieve a better understanding of the idea potential.
Let’s understand this through an example. Your organization organizes an ideation activity to collect ideas for new product design. It is beneficial for each participant to individually express his/her thoughts for each idea and to finally consolidate all the ideas. Wearing the White Hat, they will analyze the data they have. They can discuss the facts around a proposed idea such as “do we have required resources”, “do we have the technology for this design”. Then, Yellow Hat will assist in identifying the advantages and positive impact of the idea. The Black Hat is here to remind us of the potential disadvantages, risks and difficulties that can have a bad impact on sales and production. With Red Hat, you will easily understand the feeling and emotions of the team about the idea, do they like it or not. Then Green Hat will bring thinking of the idea for a new design from a creative and innovative perspective. This hat helps you bring and connect new ideas to improve the original one. Finally, the Blue Hat will summarize everything, ensuring that the idea has been analyzed sufficiently.
Using Six Thinking Hats during idea generation, your innovation team will be able to:
- Maximize creative thinking as well as productive and focused collaboration,
- See and understand all angles of the idea,
- Spot and define opportunities and benefits,
- Consider and analyze potential problems, risks and issues,
- Improve and prepare ideas for the selection process in a timely manner,
- Set a solid ground for successful decision-making.
There is no doubt that the interplay of these different thinking styles leads to a higher quality of ideas. The core idea behind the method is to develop an awareness of the different thinking styles and to encourage their use in a structured way. This can be a great exercise that you can practice with your innovation team on your brainstorming sessions, or you can integrate them into your idea generation process with the help of innovation management software.