As we delve into ways to nurture this re-thinking mindset, we are reminded of the work of Edward de Bono. de Bono originated the term “lateral thinking” and wrote several books on thinking including the famous “Six Thinking Hats”. In a simplistic explanation, we could say that this form of thought-exploration empowers us to visualise what could be, over and above what already is.
The Six Thinking Hats Approach:
Think back to one life situation that has been on your mind incessantly. You got an idea but cannot really translate that idea into a working plan. Write it down. And follow through with the six thinking hats approach as a re-thinking mindset practice challenge.
- Put on the Blue Hat, the Conductor’s Hat. Simply outline the situation. Get it all out on paper. Understand that there is no need to come to a conclusion this very second, and that you can brew on it for the next few minutes. Take a few deep breathes. Appreciate yourself for putting in the best efforts with the maximum available resources at hand. Bring your mind back to the conductor’s seat, and go through with this thinking strategy.
- Let’s put on the White Hat, the Factual Hat. This is when we put down all known facts and data on the table. We elaborate on the concept and context of the situation, the question, the topic at hand in its most basic form. We also map out its purpose and ethical roots, discover gaps in knowledge, re-think needed facts of the case and the weakness in understanding of the concept.
- Then let’s say, we put on the Red Hat, the Hat for the Heart. This allows us to answer the question of how the idea makes us feel, and what is our emotional response to the ideas and facts spread out in front of us. We got to remind ourselves to think outside of our own selves and tap into our intuition and hunches, beyond our feelings. We can also think of our fears and likes and dislikes around the idea in question. Additionally, we need to consider how others would react if they had never seen or thought of this idea before.
- Now let’s add some caution to the story. Put on the Black Hat, the Judge’s Hat. Think of all the reasons that this idea won’t work. Write down every possible and exaggerated issues and flaws and drawbacks and risks and difficulties down the road. The purpose here is to be able to chalk out a backup in place and have the vision to develop a stronger concept, with the knowledge of everything that could possibly go wrong. This helps us to start with the acceptance that the odds are against us and enables us to keep our expectations in check and gratefulness at the ready.
- Before you decide to give up just yet, put on the Yellow Hat, the Optimist’s Hat. Revisit why you had even thought of this idea in the first place. Write down the motivation and value behind your idea. Evaluate the greatness of your idea by listing down all the benefits it could plausibly bring about. Map a clear and realistic vision of how this idea adds value to the existing situation. If any over-enthusiastic expectations crop up in your mind, write them down too. It’s okay to have lofty goals and keep re-evaluating them as we move forward.
- Finally, it’s time to unleash your imaginative mind, and put on the Green Hat, the Creative Superpower Hat. With all possible sides of the story drawn out in front of you, it’s time to get re-thinking, and begin fresh brainstorming. Sketch out a detailed mind map about needed improvisations, alternative pathways and ideas, new concepts and fresh perspectives. This could also be a good time to consider any new ideas that could be nurtured, or kept in the idea bank for future interests.
As Adam Grant writes: “The curse of knowledge is that it closes our minds to what we don’t know. We all have blind spots in our knowledge and opinions. The bad news is that they can leave us blind to our blindness, which gives us false confidence in our judgment and prevents us from re-thinking. It takes humility to reconsider our past commitments, doubt to question our present decisions, and curiosity to reimagine our future plans. What we discover along the way can free us from the shackles of our familiar surroundings and our former selves.”
The book “Think Again” brings out a crucial mental block that influences a lot of our decisions. Our identity. Not the one based on socially-ascribed labels. The one decided by how we identify ourselves.
While identity-based decisions can mostly be value-driven, it is equally significant to remember that our identities our open systems, and so are our lives. It could be detrimental to hold on to our original concepts for too long. Values evolve over time, and that’s okay.
Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats approach can be implemented to acknowledge our evolving value system too. As we identify the enhanced awareness in our critical thinking and analytical reasoning abilities, we grow more accepting of ourselves. This could, in turn, put us in the headspace to meet people where they are at, and be more open to listen to others without jumping to conclusions immediately.
One way of re-thinking is to give up any judgement or shame for our past selves that thought differently and showed up in ways we no longer identify with. It takes great courage to accept how we have evolved as persons, and be loving towards our own selves for doing the best we could have done at every phase of our lives. Growing as a person is also about understanding that we can do better only if and when we know better. The same stands true for other people too.
Questioning what we do is crucial to personal development. Accepting the answers with compassion is just as significant in nurturing the re-thinking mindset.