As a VA you’ll often be asked to think on your feet. Can you do this? Can you do that? Could you just take this and turn it into something more presentable?
It, therefore, makes sense to develop your creative thinking skills. And that, as it happens, is much easier than you would, ahem, think. When you start looking, you’ll find there are many, many resources out there to help you. One method that has been recommended to me by a friend who is “into creativity” is called Six Thinking Hats®. It was devised by Edward de Bono more than 35 years ago but is still being used by organisations around the world.
Now, you may be thinking “Shelley, that’s all well and good but I am not a corporate business, I’m just a VA on my own. How is it relevant to me?”
That’s a good question
And I’ll do my best to answer from what I’ve picked up.
Yes, Six Thinking Hats® is designed for executive boards, teams and departments. But it’s also been used in schools and by individuals as well.
This creative methodology aims to replace the argument with a constructive and efficient process for working through challenges, plans and projects.
Let me tell you about the Six Thinking Hats® first. Then I’ll explain why it’s relevant for you as a VA, whether you are on your own or working with a team.
Imagine six hats
The six hats are each a different colour: white, red, black, yellow, green and blue.
In a typical ‘discussion’ about a project, for example, you might have somebody argue for one way forward. Someone else will immediately give five reasons why that won’t work. Someone else chimes in with their alternative. They suffer the same fate.
It’s confrontational, argumentative, disruptive, negative and – for those in the room – it can feel like you’re just going nowhere fast.
Everyone is coming at the topic from different points of view. And that’s where the Six Thinking Hats® come in.
Each hat represents a different point of view. At any one point during the discussion, everyone is ‘wearing’ the same colour of hat. They are all looking at the problem from the same perspective.
Let’s take a look at each hat in turn.
The White Hat
This is about information. Just information.
Facts and figures are shared here, naturally. But it can also include ‘soft’ information, such as opinions and feelings (if you are reporting on what someone else is feeling rather than your own emotions).
The questions with this hat on might include: What information do we have? What information do we need? What information is missing? What questions do we need to ask?
The Red Hat
The red hat is all about feelings.
Wearing this hat, you can express emotions, feelings, your intuition and ‘gut feeling’ – without having to justify them.
This defies convention because typically emotion is ‘removed’ from business decisions (even though we all have feelings about those decisions).
The Black Hat
The black hat is for caution.
It is the voice of warning about anything (potentially) unlawful, unprofitable, dangerous or harmful to people or the planet. This is the space for raising problems, difficulties, ethical dilemmas, culture or values clashes, and points about why something might not work.
This is probably the most used hat of the six. And you can understand why.
The Yellow Hat
The yellow hat is about finding benefit and value in ideas and suggestions.
It’s very easy to be negative and knock every bit of creative input down. This space forces people to look for the good, the opportunities, the possibilities.
The questions are more around constructive thinking. How can we make this possible? How could this work? What is the potential of this?
The Green Hat
Green is the colour of growth and seeding ideas.
This is where people can share new ideas, new concepts and new perceptions. It is about taking an idea and building on it, expanding on it, adding options and alternatives.
This is the hat for pure creative and innovative thinking. No judgement. Just get the ideas out there, especially if the thinking on a problem or topic has become stale or stuck.
The Blue Hat
The blue hat, as de Bono describes it, is for “thinking about thinking”.
This is about organisation, process and control. The blue hat tends to start proceedings. It sets out the challenge, problem or topic. It may ask for an alternative way to define the problem. It sets out what is to be achieved from the session or exercise.
The blue hat is there to keep things in focus. If the talk drifts off centre, it’s the blue hat’s job to draw it back in.
And those are the Six Thinking Hats®.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
How a VA Can Wear the Thinking Hats
Now you can begin to see how an organisation or team might use the hats. But you may be thinking “what use is this to me, as a VA or assistant?”
Firstly, it’s something your clients may find interesting or of value.
They may have heard of it but do they use it? Would that kind of approach be worth them exploring or investigating?
At the very least, it shows you are thinking of them. That shows attentiveness, initiative and a sense that creativity is part of who you are.
Secondly, although the six hats are seen largely as a team or organisational tool, they can be used by individuals. Apparently, it even recommends this solo approach in the book about the method.
That means you can apply it for your own purposes.
How might you do that?
Take a leaf out of the clues in the method
Let’s say you have a challenge or problem and you’re not sure how to tackle it or what the best way forward is.
You can work through the issue using each of the six hats in turn. Define the problem (blue). Gather the facts (white). How does it feel (red)? Generate ideas for a successful outcome (yellow). Test the ideas for practicality (black). How does that feel now (red)? Do you need to review anything or refocus (blue)?
You get the picture?
You might have a project you’re working on or about to work on. You could assess it methodically and objectively using the various hats.
What are the pros (yellow)? What are the cons (black)? What are the alternatives (green)? How will you feel doing the project – and after the project (red)?
You can use it to help make decisions about client work, potential collaborations, investment in training, even buying your next home or car.
It’s a creative thinking method that enhances your creativity. As a VA, you may well be perceived as a problem solver, someone who can just sort things because “that’s what VA’s do”.
You can find out more about Six Thinking Hats® on the internet. There’s a book (by de Bono, of course). And there are training courses on it, as well.
How might you use these colourful hats? How might your clients use them?
Do let me know if you get creative with this method and what the outcome is.