This exercise was created by Edward de Bono and is designed to help people take roles and focus on one particular aspect or feeling of an idea. The groups were given a problem related to social entrepreneurship of “How to tackle isolation of the elderly in the society?” and they had to use the ‘six thinking hats’ methodology to come up with solutions for the problem. Each group seemed excited about the task and a great deal of discussion took place in the groups. Each group was assigned a facilitator whose job was to lead the conversation and make sure that each person contributed to the solution with their assigned approach.
After the exercise, the groups reflected on the usability and benefits of this exercise. The groups agreed that the benefits of this methodology for creativity is that multiple points of view are represented and this creates more balanced ideas. It also gave people focus and increased team work. The disadvantages on the other hand were that people may need to adopt a role that is very uncomfortable to them and that it may be difficult to stick to just one role; it was also mentioned that separating the different roles may be difficult sometimes.
Mostly the participants agreed that the exercise was good for fostering creativity but may not be suitable for all purposes and subjects. Most groups agreed that taking on a role that is not natural to oneself would be very good from a creativity perspective.
You can try this exercise in your organisation to solve various problems or just for general brainstorming. The strengths of the exercise lies in its structured nature and the fact that it draws creativity from a range of emotions and points of views that may otherwise be overlooked in general discussions. People tend to stick to their particular characteristics very easily and support each other when they get excited about a new idea and in this state we often forget to take a look at the idea from different perspectives. The Six Hats Exercise helps the discussion to be more balanced and take various points of view and ideas into account, and forces people to take positions that may not necessarily be natural to them, which forces us to be more creative in our thinking.
Take a look at these resources and try it out: