Can a business strategy be used for the writing process? I thought I would give it a try with the 6 thinking hats for writing.
In 1999, Edward De Bono introduced the Six Thinking Hats as a way to improve thinking and decision making for individuals and groups in the business arena. De Bono showed that humans think in six distinct ways and he gave each thinking dynamic a representative color. He believed all six ways of thinking are needed for making the best decisions, but if we let them run amok in our head we tend to get confused.
“We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope, and creativity all crowd in on us. It is like juggling with too many balls.”
De Bono suggested that a breakthrough activity (not a permanent state of being and doing things) for groups and individuals is to compartmentalize our thinking intentionally and purposely. If we tried on each of the six hats when dealing with problems, new ideas, processes or any other task at hand, we would come up with better decisions and solutions. If one of the hats doesn’t quite fit who we are and how we do things, all the better. It’s role play after all.
So why not try on all six hats at some point in conceptualizing, writing, and editing a book?
WHITE HAT THINKING seeks information without judgment or emotion or opinion. Do you take time to research before you start writing? Have you adequately immersed yourself enough in a topic before apriori (before the fact) deciding what you are going to write? Instinct and creativity are wonderful drivers, but having a few facts as a foundation might enhance what they do for your writing. Stop for a second. Ask: do I know enough to write on this?
RED HAT THINKING is almost the opposite of the information and data gathering of white hat thinking or the cold logic of black hat thinking noted below. It is intuitive, instinctive, and emotional. It knows feelings are real and mean something to both readers and writers. It knows that sometimes a gut reaction is much more important, interesting, and insightful than facts and reason. Stop. Ask: What does your heart tell you about where your book needs to go?
BLACK HAT THINKING is cautious and judges everything. It loves to play “devil’s advocate” and challenge ideas, even ones it fundamentally agrees with, by asking: Will this really work? Then prove it. It is skeptical and a bit pessimistic. As an example, when writing fiction, you know the truism that you will get by with some outlandish situations you write because you can depend on the suspension of disbelief from the reader. Right? Or will you? The black hat asks, really? Does this really make sense? The black hat brings calculation and logic to the process. Stop. Ask: Is this any good?
YELLOW HAT THINKING is optimistic and sees the potential in any idea and solution. It has a marketer’s way of thinking and has fun listing the features, advantages, and benefits of what you are working on. It is filled with hope and believes. Sometimes you have to ignore the critics – especially the one in your head wearing a black hat – and go for it. Have you read too may genre comparisons to let yourself believe you have something special you are working on? If you don’t believe in what you are writing – why should anyone else? Stop a second. Ask: What are the features, advantages, and benefits of the book I’m working on? Write them down and refer to them often when you hit a snag.
GREEN HAT THINKING is creative and wants to explore every idea to discover something new and bold. Is your book stuck in a rut. Ask yourself, what if? When wearing the green hat, there is no bad idea. This isn’t the same as the optimism of the yellow hat; it’s not throwing a party for what’s there but asking what else. It can be outrageous but don’t worry, as you well know, the black hat will speak up soon enough. Just ignore him long enough to find the spark that is missing. Run down a few rabbit trails. Try something different and new. It might be the difference between ordinary and brilliant. If the black hat tells you that you have to edit out what some of the green hat came up with, you might still add a clever and compelling addition to your work. Ask: What are some cool, clever, unique, and maybe outrageous dynamics or materials missing from my book?
BLUE HAT THINKING likes to organize things, build lists, stay on topic, and manage process. The blue hat is pretty grown up. But maybe too grown up. Sometimes the blue hat will tell the green hat to get down to business and stay on topic before it has chance to discover gold. It will tell the yellow hat that the world is not all flowers and sunshine. Fortunately it will tell the black to pipe down and stop criticizing. If you are going to write a book, at some point you have to put it on. It is a good hat to wear because if your book is still in only your head, no one else will ever read it. A lot of future authors have never disciplined themselves to map out a writing strategy that includes annoying things like outlines, timetables, and deadlines.
Are any of these hats always helpful in every situation? Probably not. Are all of us equally good at each of them? I highly doubt it. Can you improve what you are working on by giving each of them a try? Undoubtedly.