In his book titled Six Thinking Hats, Dr. Edward de Bono identifies strategies that have “changed the way that the most successful business leaders think.” According to a review by the magazine Psychology Today, “we owe de Bono a debt for constantly reminding us that thinking is a skill and can be improved.” Although his book was not written specifically for our community, the thinking strategies described in his book are definitely relevant to enjoying life beyond brain injury; we could all benefit by learning Dr. de Bono’s techniques. With a little help, learning to think will lead to better decisions, and better decisions will lead to better actions. This post is for those of us who are interested in building our decision-making skills.
Dr. de Bono’s premise is that many people try to do “too much at once” while making decisions. We already know that multitasking is dangerous and sometimes deadly. Many studies have shown that simple multitasking, such as texting while driving, significantly increases the chance of an accident. If multitasking does not work for our actions, what makes us think that we can multitask while thinking? Each decision we make involves some degree of information, emotion, caution, speculation, creativity, and control. The strategy proposed by Dr. de Bono will enable us to efficiently consider six different factors while making decisions, and no multitasking is required.
According to Dr. de Bono, role playing with the following six colorful hats can make you a better thinker.
- White – facts and figures
- Red – emotions and feelings
- Black – cautious and careful
- Yellow – speculative, positive
- Green – creative thinking
- Blue – control of thinking
A few months ago, a friend (Jim) told me that he planned to start driving immediately even though he recently had a stroke. I asked him if he had considered all of the factors. He responded “there are no factors. I’m driving the kids to school tomorrow.” Jim began driving. For a few days, he only drove his kids to and from school. Then, he began driving to several locations. During one of his first few trips to the grocery store, Jim caused an accident, broke his wrist, and damaged two cars. Thankfully, neither the kids nor his wife were in the car when the accident occurred. Aside from his broken wrist, Jim was alright as was the driver of the other vehicle.
The person who is wearing the white hat might say “according to the Stroke Journal, 95% of the people in your condition cause a motor vehicle accident if they attempt to drive too soon.” The person who is wearing the red hat might state “driving would make life easier for your family.” The person who is wearing the black hat might say “I’m not sure that driving is the right choice for you at this time. Perhaps you should attend a driving school or practice in a parking lot before driving on streets or the freeway.” The person who is wearing the yellow hat might propose that “you try driving for a day or two then reassess whether it is best to drive at this time.” The person who is wearing the green hat might say “we should consider all of the transportation options. Could you hire a driver? Could you ride the bus? Is the taxi an option?” The person who is wearing the blue hat might ask if we are looking at the right problem.
Had Jim gone through the process of Six Thinking Hats, he would have realized that driving at the time was not a great idea. Had he not driven, the accident would not have occurred, Jim would not have broken his wrist, he would not have spent the money on medical bills and collision-repair bills, and he might be able to drive by now.
How can the Six Thinking Hats strategy help you make better decisions?
Thank you to Dr. Edward de Bono for describing a complicated process in very simple, understandable, and easy-to-follow terms. The book, Six Thinking Hats, is available through Amazon as well as many book stores.