His method, called “lateral thinking,” replaces a more analytical and sequential thought process with a conscious appreciation that we all react emotionally to change. Lateral thinking uses insight, creativity and humor to manage the conflict produced by change.
Lateral thinking, de Bono says, is partly an emotional regulator and partly a way to practice thinking through change.
Here’s a way to try it, using a system of colored hats:
- The White Hat phase is a fact-finding endeavor, which concentrates on available data with no judgment allowed. You gather all relevant information.
- The Red Hat signifies emotional reactions. Team members who consider emotional reactions help the whole enterprise become aware of its inclinations and aversions. Intuitive reactions are encouraged. When leaders “follow their gut,” that’s Red Hat behavior.
- Black Hat thinking is playing devil’s advocate. It considers every possible reason why an idea won’t work: assessing risk, anticipating problems and coming up with contingencies. Black Hat thinking keeps the team from clinging to old patterns. It strengthens your hand.
- The Yellow Hat directly opposes the Black Hat. It’s the sunny side. When a group thinks optimistically, without naysaying, the Yellow Hat can often draw out unforeseen benefits and added value that may counteract the Black Hat’s reality check.
- The Green Hat is pure creativity. It tools around generating buzz and raking up provocative ideas. This hat lays out all the ideas that one person alone couldn’t dream up or champion. Free thought is best unleashed when you’re looking at a “green field” of opportunities.
- Blue Hat thinking controls the process. It’s about : organizing, discussing, planning and executing a plan.
The Blue Hat brings ideas to life. It asks how, then marshals your resources and gets the job done.