Yesterday, I explained the focus of my Kidmin workshop on leading creative teams. I left out one of the key teachings on purpose. I figured this was worthy of an entire post.
Brainstorming is all about getting every idea out on a whiteboard. In order for brainstorming to really work, everyone at the table must set aside that nagging critical voice that wants to squash every idea put on the table. If too much squashing happens, you’ll never get the best idea because everyone will be editing their idea internally before it even comes out of their mouth. The idea is to capture as many ideas as possible that could add to your big idea.
But think about it: after a brainstorming session you could very literally have dozens of ideas, some will be amazing, some will be awful, but some will sound good at the time but could be a disaster if brought to your final event or program. Ideas need some evaluation, but evaluation isn’t easy because we all come into the room with biases toward a certain idea or mode of operation that will dictate how we respond to each idea on the table.
Here’s where an evaluation tool like the Six Hats comes into play:
The set up is simple. Get six different color hats; each symbolizes a key view point that needs to be heard in the meeting. As people want to take that angle on the discussion, they pick up the hat. Sure they can wear the hat if they desire, but this is not necessary for this to work.
Here are the 6 hats:
Blue Hat | Control and Summary
Most likely you will want to choose someone who will “wear” the Blue Hat for the majority of your meeting. You need a person who is facilitating the discussion, keeping it focused on the topic without letting it go sideways. This person is taking notes and continually reviewing what is being said in order for everyone to know where the discussion is headed and what actions are required.
White Hat | Data, Facts and Figures
When you look at an idea, you need to look at every side of the issues. The person wearing the White Hat is thinking about numbers and information needed to evaluate ideas. These could include budget concerns, historical evidence to support or dissuade the idea, attendance numbers, names of people who could help, etc. Some people just gravitate towards this sort of information and will want to wear this hat for the whole meeting. It will be Blue Hats job to make sure other people in the room have a chance to wear the White Hat.
Red Hat | Emotions
The person wearing the Red Hat talks in terms of their feelings towards the idea. People will use descriptions like “I’m EXCITED about this idea” or “Kids will LOVE this.” This could also be a chance for someone to express any negative emotions that may arise. “I can see parents getting ANGRY with us if we change that policy.” Emotions definitely have their place in a brainstorming evaluation, but they need to be kept in balance with the rest of the information discussed. Again, the person wearing the Blue Hat will help keep that balance.
Green Hat | Ideas
Some ideas aren’t perfect. They are the beginnings of something better. The person wearing the Green Hat takes ideas to the next level. Usually Green Hat comments start with “That sounds great, but what if we did this!” When we remember that the goal is to have the most effective choice possible, everyone in the room will be working towards that best idea. Even people who don’t usually serve as “idea people” may have some important insight from being around this table. It will be up to the person wearing the Blue Hat to notice when people want to speak and call on them to share their idea.
Yellow Hat | Positivism
When you put on the Yellow Hat, it’s time to think about all the benefits of the idea on the table. Often these will sound like emotions or data because they may refer to the amount of people impacted by your idea or how much people will enjoy the results of your decision. When leadership asks why you chose a certain route, these positive comments will support why you did what you did. Each person should get a turn to voice a positive outcome of going through with your ideas.
Black Hat | Critical Judgment
While we never like criticism, having a critical eye towards your ideas is important. Valid reason for why your idea might not work must be shared. You need to know all the important information before you go ahead with implementing your idea. Some people LOVE wearing the Black Hat all meeting long. It is important for the person wearing the Blue Hat to recognize if people are being overly or continually critical throughout the meeting. Just like with the Yellow Hat, it is actually important for each person at the meeting to share a criticism of the idea. Not everyone will like your idea. Having thought through each side of the issue will prepare you to support your idea when outside criticisms come your way.
I’ve used this several times throughout the years when I served as a meeting facilitator. While no brainstorming tool is 100% perfect, having a tool in your back pocket is crucial to leading any creative meeting. The ultimate goal is that everyone has a chance to speak what’s on their mind and that you arrive at the best possible option for you event or program.
What brainstorming or evaluation tools have you used before? Tell me about them!