I’ve written twice before about the NASA-inspired Lunar Survival Skills activity I ran with students and continue to run with adults. I adore it because I keep finding new ways to improve on it.
Most recently, I solved a particular problem that’s been bugging me for years. This task is supposed to be incredibly open-ended, emphasizing creativity and innovation. And most groups are fantastic with it.
But, as folks share their creative ideas, there’s always someone who blurts out the problems with those ideas.
- Someone shares a fun way we might use a box of matches on the moon.
- Someone else shouts out all the ways that this idea wouldn’t work.
Let’s call this second person Dr. Correcto. You probably know a Dr. Correcto or two.
You’re Not Wrong, Walter…
Now, Dr. Correcto isn’t necessarily wrong, but she just isn’t picking up on the group’s vibe. So I have a hard time here. Do I tell Dr. Correcto to zip it? Do I defend the cool idea? Do I just ignore her?
I don’t want to imply that facts aren’t important, but I also don’t want to mess up our creative momentum by judging each idea. We’re brainstorming here!
I’ve never had a good solution to this, either in the classroom or while running workshops.
Thinking Hats To The Rescue
I originally wrote about Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats way back in 2009, and then sort of forgot about them. A teacher’s comment at a workshop in Utah brought them back to mind. I realized that they’re the perfect solution to the Dr. Correcto problem.
Each of the Six Hats has a color and represents a different way to think, and they’re pretty self-explanatory, but [de Bono has his own explanation here](http://www.de Bonogroup.com/six_thinking_hats.php):
- facts (white)
- emotions (red)
- cautious (black)
- optimistic (yellow)
- creative (green)
- organizational (blue) – This one’s really focused on meta-thinking: how will we organize ourselves to attack this problem?
When it’s time to think with optimism, you use the yellow hat. When it’s time for caution, you wear the black hat. It was created for business meetings, but works wonderfully in any group discussion.
And you certainly don’t have to use all of them every time!
Dr. Correcto’s problem is that the group is in a Creative Mode (the green hat) but she’s in Facts Mode (the white hat) or perhaps Caution Mode (the black hat). Neither mode is wrong – it’s just the wrong time. After all, you can’t effectively think both creatively and cautiously at the same time.
Establishing The Thinking Mode
The Thinking Hats gives a nice way to say, up front, “Boys and girls, we’re going to focus only on creative solutions right now. We’re putting on our Green Thinking Hats.” If you’re particularly cool, go ahead and buy a set of colored hats to wear,
Later, we can switch hats. “Now let’s put on our Black Hats and think about the potential problems we’ve noticed.” We can re-think the same problem with a different style.
So, the next time you want creativity, but Dr. Correcto is bring judgment, consider introducing some of the hats. They’re a great way to focus your group discussions. And de Bono’s got a whole book on them.