Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spelunking: A Faster Way to Learn The Six Thinking Hats

The Virginia Institute for Effective Thinking is always striving to find faster and more effective ways of teaching thinking. Linda Heath of Financial Holographix recently suggested an idea that I think will shorten the process of learning Six Hats Thinking a great deal. Her suggestion: use a spelunking hat as a metaphor for the entire process.

When viewing hats for the first time, some people mistakenly think The Six Hats Method is a way to convince someone that your way of thinking is correct. They treat hats as if it were something analogous to the five-step sales practice that Dale Carnegie Training teaches to get people to buy something. But Six Hats is not a way to convince someone to adhere to a particular line of reasoning. It is an exploratory process that reduces confusion by getting the whole group to think about one thing at a time.

The misunderstanding of how to use hats probably stems from the many years of critical or “I-am-right-you-are-wrong” type of thinking that is so endemic to our society. Students who are learning hats for the first time frequently ask me questions like, “I have a meeting with an important customer. How can I use Hats to convince him to buy my product instead of the competitor's?” Or they ask, “How can I use hats to convince my (boss, spouse, daughter, etc.) that we should do things my way?"

What I find so compelling about the spelunking metaphor is it emphasizes that hats are an exploratory process designed to shine the light on unexplored areas, and to help us go down some channels that have not yet been explored. While saying that hats is an exploratory process may be sufficient for audio learners, incorporating the spelunking hat or a picture of it should help kinesthetic and visual learners catch on much faster. Let me know your thoughts on this.

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