crisis of modern life, is a crisis of "knowingness":
people do not understand themselves, and they make
political decisions without understanding the forces
that govern perception and behavior.
--Jonathan Lear, Professor of philosophy.
by M. Afzal Janjua
Decision Making is an unavoidable managerial
function.Even in non-work situations, it cannot be
avoided. Whether it is work or leisure, earning or
spending, teaching or learning, leading or following,
building or demolishing, reading or writing, or any
other activity decision making, determines the outcome
There are good decisions and bad decisions, prompt
decisions or delayed decisions, programmed (routine) and
non-programmed (out of routine decisions,) considered or
intuitive decisions, personal or national level
decisions. For managerial decisions of all types and
levels; knowing the techniques and tools matters a lot .
The rational decisions module is very popular but being
demanding and time consuming; it is supplemented by the
Bounded Rationality to help managers meet the daunting
task of making decisions at work. The rational model
involves steps like determining the problem, developing
alternate solutions, evaluating alternates, choosing the
best alternate, verifying and applying the solution.
Bounded rationality suggests that the number of
alternates developed is limited and the level of
satisfaction of the decision maker is more reasonable to
ensure making decisions within time limits, which is
difficult, is the number of alternates, is large and the
decision makerís level of satisfaction or aspiration is
Thinking is the very basis of decisions making. So let
us concentrate on it.Here I am not going into the
details of the modules but presenting an interesting
tool that I am sharing with you. It is based on the
concept given by Edward De Bono the well known authority
THE SIX THINKING
Each 'Thinking Hat' is a different style of thinking.
These are explained below:
1. WHITE HAT:
With this thinking hat you focus on the data available.
Look at the information you have, and see what you can
learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge, and
either try to fill them or take account of them.
This is where you analyze past trends, and try to
extrapolate from historical data.
2. RED HAT:
'Wearing' the red hat, you look at problems using
intuition, gut reaction, and emotion. Also try to think
how other people will react emotionally. Try to
understand the responses of people who do not fully know
3. BLACK HAT:
Using black hat thinking, you look at all the bad points
of the decision. Look at it cautiously and defensively.
Try to see why it might not work. This is important
because it highlights the weak points in a plan. It
allows you to eliminate them, alter them, or prepare
contingency plans to counter them. Black Hat thinking
helps to make your plans 'tougher' and more resilient.
It can also help you to spot fatal flaws and risks
before you embark on a course of action. Black Hat
thinking is one of the real benefits of this technique,
as many successful people get so used to thinking
positively that often they cannot see problems in
advance. This leaves them under-prepared for
4. YELLOW HAT:
The yellow hat helps you to think positively. It is the
optimistic viewpoint that helps you to see all the
benefits of the decision and the value in it. Yellow Hat
thinking helps you to keep going when everything looks
gloomy and difficult.
5. GREEN HAT
The Green Hat stands for creativity. This is where you
can develop creative solutions to a problem. It is a
freewheeling way of thinking, in which there is little
criticism of ideas. A whole range of creativity tools
can help you here.
This hat is so common to war on. It needs creativity
that is also not extinct but uncommon as our corporate
culture rarely encourages it.
6. BLUE HAT:
The Blue Hat stands for process control. This is the hat
worn by people chairing meetings. When running into
difficulties because ideas are running dry, they may
direct activity into Green Hat thinking. When
contingency plans are needed, they will ask for Black
Hat thinking, etc.
A variant of this technique is to look at problems from
the point of view of different professionals (e.g.
doctors, architects, sales directors, etc.) or different
The directors of XYZ Company are looking at whether they
should construct a new office building at prime location
in the town. It is a huge project involving lot of time
and cost. The economy is doing well, and the amount of
vacant office space is reducing sharply. As part of
their decision they decide to use the 6 Thinking Hats
technique during a planning meeting. Looking at the
problem with the White Hat, they analyze the data they
have. They examine the trend in vacant office space,
which shows a sharp reduction. They anticipate that by
the time the office block would be completed, that there
will be a severe shortage of office space. Current
government projections show steady economic growth for
at least the construction period. With Red Hat thinking,
some of the directors think the proposed building looks
quite ugly. While it would be highly cost-effective,
they worry that people would not like to work in it.
When they think with the Black Hat, they worry that
government projections may be wrong. The economy may be
about to enter a 'cyclical downturn', in which case the
office building may be empty for a long time. If the
building is not attractive, then companies will choose
to work in another better-looking building at the same
rent. With the Yellow Hat, however, if the economy holds
up and their projections are correct, the company stands
to make a great deal of money. If they are lucky, maybe
they could sell the building before the next downturn,
or rent to tenants on long-term leases that will last
through any recession. With Green Hat thinking they
consider whether they should change the design to make
the building more pleasant. Perhaps they could build
prestige offices that people would want to rent in any
economic climate. Alternatively, maybe they should
invest the money in the short term to buy up property at
a low cost when a recession comes. The Blue Hat has been
used by the meeting's Chair to move between the
different thinking styles. He or she may have needed to
keep other members of the team from switching styles, or
from criticizing other peoples' points.
It is well worth reading Edward de Bono's book 6
Thinking Hats for more information on this technique.
Six Thinking Hats is a very effective technique for
looking at the effects of a decision from a number of
different points of view. It allows necessary emotion
and skepticism to be brought into what would otherwise
be purely rational decisions. It opens up the
opportunity for creativity within Decision Making. The
technique also helps, for example, persistently
pessimistic people to be positive and creative.
Plans developed using the Six Thinking Hats' technique
will be sounder and more resilient than would otherwise
be the case. It may also help you to avoid public
relations mistakes, and spot good reasons not to follow
a course of action before you have committed to it.
Now let us think that it is not limited to mega
projects. Other decisions can also be considered with
the help of this technique.
However, applying this tool to routine decisions is not
advisable as it is too elaborate. Decisions that have
;on range impact and need thorough consideration e.g.
launching a new product, opening a new branch, change in
organization set up, mergers and the like are better
targeted with is technique.
DO IT YOURSELF
Find out a problem or situation currently at your desk
awaiting a decision. Take time out to wear these hats
one by one and go through the process to find out the
efficacy of the suggested styles.