The Six Thinking Hats Every Business Analyst Should Wear

I particularly like the Six Thinking Hats Technique because of its practicality and relevance to analysts. When you apply this technique, you gain a well-rounded view of all the major aspects to a situation by evaluating it from different angles. This method of thinking was introduced by Edward De Bono and offers a revolutionary approach to complex decision-making. The different hats and what they imply are shown in the diagram below.

These hats indicate emotional states or different frames of mind (multiples angles from which you can explore a problem). No hat is superior to the other. A balanced application of all the hats can however, help in gaining a general understanding of any recommendation you propose to stakeholders. This technique is particularly useful in writing business cases, conducting stakeholder negotiations and assessing situations objectively for improved decision-making.

Let's say a group of stakeholders are trying to decide whether to include a requirement or not, here are some questions to consider when "wearing the different hats":

1. What information is available on the requirement? What information is missing and who can you approach to provide answers? : White Hat

2. How do you feel about the requirement? Would the product feature appeal to you if you were a user? : Red Hat

3. What are the downsides to including the requirement? What is the Business going to lose? The Business may stand to lose money, time or a certain group of customers : Black Hat

4. What are the benefits of including the requirement? Who will benefit from it? : Yellow Hat

5. Are there other alternatives to the requirement? Is there a workaround that can be considered? : Green Hat

6. Have you considered everything related to the requirement? What is the next thing to do? : Blue Hat

The Six Thinking Hats technique simplifies thinking by allowing you to put on one hat at a time. Human beings have an ingrained desire to be right. With a tendency for most discussions to be overridden by egos, Six Thinking Hats helps reduce arguments and promote a more balanced view of the problem. As a professional, use this technique whenever the situation calls for it. You may decide to use it when you are alone and need to make a decision or when you are in a meeting. When using the technique with a group of stakeholders, different people can wear the same hat and avoid arguments in what is known as parallel thinking.

So, what are the benefits to Business Analysts? 

The Six Thinking Hats technique can help to introduce convergent thinking which is necessary for decision-making, especially after a brainstorming session. It provides a framework for switching between different modes of thinking and can also help to expand our thinking beyond the perspective we would naturally adopt, thereby increasing the quality of the decisions we help businesses arrive at. 

See The Six Thinking Hats Technique for ideas on how it can be applied.


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