Parallel Thinking [to avoid poor solutions to real problems]

Most of our thinking is structured to be adversarial as a result of the way the world around us works. One person has a thesis, and every other person tests it with criticism. So, when someone presents you with an idea, your natural reaction is to criticize it in order to test its strength. This type of thinking works great in a courtroom but there lies a problem when you bring this type of thinking to other walks of life. Reason being, everyone else reacts to ideas based on their own exposure, experience, moral fabric, and most dangerously, personal agenda. In business, this gets a little more disturbing because of the different dynamics that are at play, position, department, title etc.

So, how do we waltz past the limitations of adversarial thinking in order for us not to shoot down the next big idea, or brainstorm the current ideas on the table poorly? There’s a popular thinking system called the Six Thinking Hats created by Edward De Bono. This aims to help us have a fuller picture of the idea at hand by forcing us to focus on six dimensions of thought through the use of colored hats. So when a person is wearing a particular hat color, they are thinking a certain way, thus breaking the paradigm of adversarial thinking. Below are the six hats and their meanings.

  1. The white hat – This the information hat. While wearing this hat, people can ask for more information to help analyze the idea further.
  2. The red hat – This is the feelings and emotions hat. While wearing this hat, people can bear out their minds, their gut instincts and any possible gotchas that they perceive without any circumstantial evidence. Usually, when people express their feelings, there is a sense of relief that eases the tension and prepares everyone to move forward into more creative zones.
  3. The yellow hat – This is the sunshine and optimism hat. While wearing this hat, people focus on the good and positive things they see in the idea.
  4. The black hat – This is the negativity and pessimism hat. While wearing this hat, people focus on the negative things they see from a neutral perspective. Its easy to delve into the red hat again while wearing this hat. Thinkers need to check themselves to ensure they are bringing up neutral points, not those influenced by emotions and feelings.
  5. The green hat – This is the hat of growth, creativity and possibilities. While wearing this hat, people broaden the idea and try to make it grow. To brainstorm and possibly branch out to contribute new ideas based on the initial idea and get creative with it.
  6. The blue hat – This is the process hat. While wearing this hat, people test the process out, or plan the process for executing the idea if it is decided that it is one what pursuing. If someone feels that the meeting is not working well at this point, they can have everyone put on the blue hat (at any point in the meeting) to discuss what isn’t working well.

More can be said about this but it is talked about in more detail here-

This is the same as ‘thinking from many angles’ that we often say but don’t have a process around achieving. I have found this very useful even in personal thinking to help me focus my thoughts and refine them better before going on to action. I hope this helps you too.


Image Credit – The TRIZ Journal

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