Decision Making Tools And Techniques: The Six Hat's Approach


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Introduction
"If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much." (About Quotations.com). Our ability to make well informed and critically analyzed decisions along with the decision-making processes we employ, are key in determining our overall successes and failures. We are faced with daily decisions that can ultimately change the very courses of our lives. Poor decisions will lead to unintended failures while educated, deliberate, and purposefully planned decisions will bring about a desired result with great success.
Why Use Decision-Making Tools?
Since high-quality decision-making plays such a significant role in our personal and professional lives, it's extremely important to identify tools and techniques that can aide us in the process. While many such tools exist, for the purposes of this paper, I will concentrate on one specific tool used for this purpose. The tool that will be discussed is called the "Six Thinking Hats" method (Mind Tools.com).
Introduction to the "Six Thinking Hats" Method
The "Six Thinking Hats", created by Edward de Bono, is used to "look at decisions from a number of important perspectives." (Mind Tools.com). The method forces you to think "outside the box", to move away from your naturally engrained "habitual thinking style" while considering possibilities that may have never exited for you previously. (Mind Tools.com). This tool provides the user with a better developed multi-perspective on the problem being considered.
Description of "Six Thinking Hats" Method
The "Six Thinking Hats" method requires an individual to view each problem from six distinct perspectives, thus ensuring "you solve it using all six approaches." The six "hats" are described as white, red, black, yellow, green, and blue, each representing a distinct approach that should be taken to address any given problem. To better illustrate how this technique is applied, one should consider an example problem in need of a resolution then work through each "hat" to solve it.
Introduction of Problem to be analyzed using the tool
The West Virginia University School of Dentistry is considering the implementation of digital radiology into all academically related and patient care treatment programs. One department has already begun experimenting with the new technology with great success and very positive feedback from faculty, staff, students, and patients. In order to fully consider and address the various implications of implementation, Administration should don the "six hats" to perform a detailed analysis of the situation.

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The "White Hat" Consideration
As discussed earlier, there are six "hats" to consider when applying this method of problem solving. The first hat, designated by white, allows you to concentrate on the data currently available. In other words, review all the available information and decide what can be learned from it. You should also look for "gaps in your knowledge and either try to fill them in or take account of them." (Mind Tools.com). When considering the implementation of digital radiography, we already know that new equipment will need purchased /older systems upgraded, new staff and faculty training must occur, additional software purchases to accommodate digital system, etc. We also know that we will need to investigate several digital imaging products to find the most appropriate model for our school to follow.
The "Red Hat" Consideration
The next hat, red, calls for us to look at the problem "intuition, gut reaction, and emotion." (Mind Tools.com). This allows the individual to rationally face the problem while analyzing how their emotions / gut reactions might be influencing their current perception(s) of the problem. For instance, my gut reaction for implementing digital radiography was two fold. 1. It will be extremely costly, 2. Many faculty/staff members will resist the change because of the extensive training requirements involved. Identifying, understanding, and addressing these feelings allow for a better informed, less skewed assessment of the problem.
The "Black Hat" Consideration
The black hat calls for us to consider all the negative aspects of the decision. "Look at it cautiously and defensively…try to see why it might not work." (Mind Tools.com). This allows the individual to address problems before they arise or, at the very least, have contingency plans in place so that the individual / organization is not blindsided in the future, thus completely ill-prepared to address the problem(s). In the case of digital radiography implementation, what happens if the system goes down and the healthcare providers have no way of accessing the radiographs. Additionally, in a system failure, the provider would be unable to process radiographs for patient needs. Implementation costs, training expenses, and staff time management are also big considerations.
The "Yellow Hat" Consideration
In direct contrast to the black hat, the yellow hat helps you "to think positively" about the decision. "It is the optimistic viewpoint that helps you to see all the benefits of the decision and the value in it." (Mind Tools.com). The introduction of digital radiography enhances the types of services available to the patient while greatly increasing the level of care that can be provided. It is also imperative for the transition to a paperless chart, something that will dramatically impact organizational operations. While the costs of implementing the new system will be extensive, the long term returns and benefits will far outweigh the initial investment costs.
The "Green Hat" Consideration
The green hat "stands for creativity." (Mind Tools.com). Putting on this hat can help an individual find "creative" ways to address the problem in question. Utilizing current computer systems while purchasing new monitors and necessary equipment can cut initial costs of implementation. Group training sessions taught during evening hours will also reduce the amount of clinic downtime thus allowing patient care and clinic revenues to remain at current levels.
The "Blue Hat" Consideration
The blue hat "stands for "process control." (Mind Tools.com). Individuals in charge of committees, upper level administration, etc. will wear this hat. "When running into difficulties because ideas are running dry", blue hat individuals may change back to green hat thinking, and so on. (Mind Tools.com). This hat is critical for managers, directors, and upper level administrators. It ensures the big picture is achieved while allowing all options to remain open until a viable solution is reached.
The Advantages of using "Six Thinking Hats" Method
As one can see, there are several advantages to utilizing the "Six Thinking Hats" technique in problem solving. They include:


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