Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Having a Challenge? Try On Your Coloured Hats

By Karen Dodd on Mar 21 2013 • Filed under Business

Photo by Niall Crotty of many colourful hats on a bench. Do you remember in school, being told to put on your thinking cap?

The trouble with thinking is that it can be confusing! Or as Maltese writer, Edward de Bono argues in his book, Six Thinking Hats, "We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope, and creativity all crowd in on us. It is like juggling with too many balls." 
The solution? Ditch the thinking cap and try on some different coloured hats.
Dr. de Bono tells us that when we are trying to work out a problem, our brains think in a number of distinct ways and some don’t come as naturally to everyone. I find this holds true when we are trying to be creative in our businesses.
A Hat For Every Occasion
In a recent blog, writer, Daphne Gray-Grant put de Bono’s different hats into perspective in a way that I found illuminating for entrepreneurs:
1. Red hat (emotional): What do your feelings tell you?
2. White hat (objective): What are the facts?
3. Yellow hat (positive): What do you know will work?
4. Black hat (negative): What do you know won't work?
5. Green hat (creative): What are some alternative ideas?
6. Blue hat (broad perspective): What's the best overall solution?
Your Mission Should You Choose to Accept It:
Working with hundreds of entrepreneurs over the years, I have found that our strengths and our weaknesses often lie close together. For example, the strength of your service business may be that you are able to show deep feeling and compassion for your clients. The corresponding weakness is that you may be so ruled by emotion that you don’t adequately consider the cold, hard facts of a situation.
Entrepreneurs by nature are often optimistic. That is a strength for sure. However, by being overly optimistic, you may be unwilling to look at the downside of your decisions and objectively assess how likely something is to actually work. 
If you could waive a magic wand and solve just one problem or challenge in your business right now, what would it be?
With that in mind, grab a piece of paper or your journal and do the following:
1. Write down what your feelings are telling you. Don’t censor yourself; just go with your gut.
2. Next, write down the facts as honestly as you can. Just the facts, Ma’am! You may be optimistic that everyone will love your next idea and it will bring in tons of new business but what are your numbers or the market telling you?
3. Write down what you know for sure has worked before or is working now for someone else in your industry. If you don’t have experience to fall back on, don’t get stuck at this point. Just trust me!
4. Now, what do you know won’t work? Go crazy here! Even write down the obvious “duhs” and other such absurdities. These will come in handy later and will keep your pen moving on the page.
5. Look for alternative ideas. This is where you involve someone else. Take your challenge to three other people, either someone else in your company or a complete outsider. Beware of filtering or discounting others’ ideas no matter how off base they may seem. Remain open to harvesting even a nugget from each person.
6. Get quiet and think. But stick to what you’ve written down so as not to get sucked back into that vortex of confused thinking.
The above may seem like just a new take on the old pro/con exercise. But it’s not. 
The difference is that typically, when we make lists of all the reasons why or why not to do something, most of us do it from our dominant perspective. Instead of wearing only your analytical (white) hat, or your negative (black) one, this exercise challenges you to access your rainbow of perspectives. We all have them but sometimes they’re hidden somewhere in our sub-conscious.
I’d love to hear how you did with this approach. Leave a comment below and I’ll be sure to check in and offer more help or answer your questions.

Karen DoddFormer CEO of the Global Institute of Small Business Marketing, Karen Dodd is writer-in-residence at, a blog for those who consider themselves empty-nesters, late-bloomers, or finally have time to explore their interest in writing. Her mission is to support, inspire and share insights so that latent writers don’t live one more day with their “music” still in them. Avid readers are welcome too!

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