Making decisions when members of a group have widely differing ideas and preferences can be tricky and may even lead to conflict.
The best kind of decision will represent a 'win-win solution' where everyone feels their needs have been met, even if their preference wasn't prioritised. The likelihood of a win-win solution depends on the behaviour of everyone, for example making a decision by forcing someone into a position or action will result in hostility and resentment.
De Bono’s ‘thinking hats’ model suggests a collaborative rather than combative or controlling approach to decision making:
The key is to foster collaboration from the very start.
De Bono's 'hat thinking' model gives your team a framework to discuss an issue you need to make a decision about. The six hats represent six different ways to approach the issue.
In group discussions, it is essential that everyone uses the same hat (approach) at the same time. This helps avoid personal preferences and conflicts between styles of thinking.
- Blue Hat: this is the control hat - use this hat to set your agenda and focus, and direct your discussion about the issue into 'hat thinking', for example asking everyone to put on a Green hat when ideas are running dry.
- White Hat: focus on the data - what information have you got? Are there gaps in the group's knowledge that you need to fill or acknowledge? Where will you find this information?
- Green Hat: be creative - let your imagination run wild and discuss how far you could take an idea. Use this hat to generate ideas and alternatives. It is a freewheeling approach and avoids criticism of ideas.
- Red Hat: what does your intuition, gut reaction or emotion tell you about this decision? How may others react differently? This approach invites feelings without justification.
- Black Hat: what are the potentially negative outcomes? Be cautious and defensive, look for the weak points, risks and flaws in order to avoid, alter or plan for them. This critical judgement is a necessary part of thinking and reaching a decision.
- Yellow hat: be optimistic - look for the benefits and value of a decision. This can help you through difficult moments.
Once you have tried on each hat, you should be ready to make a decision that the whole team has contributed to and can commit to.