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Before Your Next Meeting, Put on Your Thinking Hat!

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | January 22, 2013

Here's how to eliminate all those dull, wasteful meetings at the office.

Remember all those productive, informative, even civil department meetings you attended in 2012? Me neither.

According to a 2010 poll by USA Today, unfocused meetings are the No. 1 reason why people feel they are unproductive at work.

It doesn’t have to be that way, according to Mary Jo Huard, owner, Southwest Training Institute, Carrollton, TX. In a Cleaning Products Division session during the Consumer Specialty Product Association’s annual meeting last month, Huard walked attendees through the “Six Thinking Hats” method to replace adversarial thinking with parallel thinking for your next corporate meeting, department meeting, sales call, etc.

 

The six hats are:

• White Hat—information available and needed
• Red Hat—intuition, feelings and hunches
• Black Hat—caution, difficulties and problems
• Yellow Hat—benefits strengths and feasibilities
• Green Hat—Alternatives and creative ideas
• Blue Hat—Managing the thinking processes

Too often, in business and in life, people let their conflicting emotions run amok and they torpedo ideas before they ever have a chance to float, according to Huard. By using these hats, individuals can quiet their thoughts, focus their thinking and drill down to find one or more answers to questions and issues that are troubling them and their companies.

“Multi-tasking is not a good process,” Huard insisted. “When you silo ideas, you force the brain to delve into every strength, weakness and emotion surrounding an issue.”

At the same time, the Six Hats concept can open the door for new solutions to flow into the meeting room.

Mary Jo Huard

How the hats are sequenced is up to the facilitator, but Huard cautioned that the blue hat must open and close the meeting to set the agenda and deliver the conclusion. The other rule is that yellow hat thinking (positive comments) must always precede black hat thinking (negative comments). Huard noted that black hats tend to overrun meetings, shut down input from all attendees and kill projects before they have a chance to be fully developed. Companies such as IBM and 3M have used the Six Thinking Hats method to increase productivity, according to Huard.

The meeting facilitator in the Six Thinking Hats structure designs the sequence that the hats will be used. In fixed sequencing, the hats are set in advance as an agenda, and then each hat is considered in turn for a fixed amount of time. According to Huard, when used in this manner, the Six Thinking Hats will help executives find focus and systemically move through each of the six thinking types.

Or, in a contingent and flexible sequence, the selected hat is based on what has already transpired during the meeting. This method is recommended when a meeting takes an unexpected turn, as the flexibility enables the facilitator to meet the needs of the participants.

In an evolving sequence structure, there is no preset plan. The first hat is chosen and when this is finished (each hat session only lasts seven minutes or less), there is a choice of the next hat to be used. The evolving sequence is best used when rambling discussions are taking over a meeting.

More info: Southwest Training Institute, Tel: 888-978-6632; Email: mjhuard@swtinstitute.com; Website: www.swtinstitute.com

 

 

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