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The Thinking Hats

Feb 10, 2019 2:21:52 PM / by Travis Jacobs

Eliminating Who's On First Syndrome 

Who Is On First ... What Is On Second ... I Don't Know Is On Third



Sound Familiar?


How many meetings,  emails or conversations do you have at work on daily basis that resemble an Abbott & Costello routine?


Probably more than you care to admit ...


The Solution ...


The Talking Football is an effective tool when used with the thinking hats  ... to identify blind spots and discuss the pink elephant in the room. 


yin yangThere is a Yin Yang relationship between the typical and the ideal project.  We use the talking

football to move the typical towards the ideal.

Open & honest communication is needed in order to remove the Waste ... As well as neutralize the Threats that can derail the project and cause failure.


The Talking Football & the thinking hats are a tool to avoid the Abbott & Costello routine in the workplace.


The Red Flag is the mechanism that ties all of these together in practice ... similar to a referee in a football game 


The Talking Football is a 3 part system

 Part 1. The Talking Football

 Part 2a.  Who's On First

 Part 2b.  The Pink Elephant

 Part 3. Red Flags

             a. Threats

             b. Waste

             c. The Stop Doing List





The CEO Challenge is one method of getting closer to the Ideal Project.


The 6 Thinking Hats is a concept from Edward DeBono, we have expanded the concept and added the Talking Football to eliminate the noise & bullsh*t most teams encounter.


The Thinking Hats

Primary Thinking Hats


  1. The Yellow Hat: Optimism, Positivity, Value & Benefit
  2. The Green Hat: Creativity, Alternatives & New Ideas
  3. The White Hat: Just The Facts, Data & Information
  4. The Black Hat: The Devil's Advocate, Problems, Obstacles & Threats
  5. The Silver Hat: Seeking 3rd Alternatives ... Balance, Objectivity, 
  6. The Red Hat: Feelings, Opinions, Instincts, Hunches & Intuition
  7. The Blue Hat: The Leader ... The Coach ... Teacher ... 


1.  Blue Hat

BlueThe Blue Hat is the Leadership Hat.    A blend of a coach ... quarterback ... teacher ... traffic cop and referee all rolled into one.

Think of the Blue Hat as the Navy SEAL commander or the strategic general that leads the troops and assists the troops in developing the plans.

The Blue Hat is part coach and part quarterback ... a leader and a follower. 


The primary purpose of the Blue Hat is to guide the team to develop a coherent and integrated plan ... as a team ... in 3 areas.

  1. Strategy
  2. Tactics
  3. Logistics

The secondary purpose of the Blue Hat is contingency planning. 

To formulate contingency plans when things go wrong ... So we can execute to win as a team with excellence.

The plan should cover what the end state should be or should look like. 

In other words ... what does winning look like and how do we know we've won ... what is the score?

Commanders intent should be specified clearly and simply ... where are we going and why are we going there.



2.  Red Hat

RedThe Red Hat gives the emotional view ...

feelings ... intuition ... my gut ... hunches ...  are expressed under the Red Hat.  When using this hat there is never a need to justify  the feeling and emotions.

The purpose of the Red Hat is to understand the other person from their perspective.  To listen to understand ... Not listen to respond.

Understanding does not equal agreement.




3.  Green Hat


The Green Hat looks for and explores solutions.  This is the creativity & "out of the box" thinking hat.  Under this hat there is no judgement & No bad ideas. 

This is the hat for proposing and discussing  ... alternatives ... solutions ... crazy ideas.

What if ... we tried this ..

What if we combined these plans together ... took out these parts ... added a pinch of this ... a pinch of that.

This is a combination of a mad scientist and a experimental chef ...

Approaching the problem with ignorance and humility of a 5 year old.



4.  White Hat

White The White Hat is the logical & analysis hat ... seeking data and information ... clues ... facts.


Think of the White Hat as a detective ... a scientist or a trial lawyer.


Here is what I can prove ... here are the facts ... this is my evidence ... here is the proof.

Put on your lab coat as a scientist & look at everything through the lens of the scientific method. 



5.  Black Hat


The Black Hat is the Devils' advocate ... arguing why something won't work. 


The Black Hat looks to expose the flaws ... the weaknesses ... the Achilles heel in any plan ... situation ... design ... strategy ...


The purpose of the Black Hat is to identify ALL of the Threats ... obstacles ... landmines ... roadblocks ... anything and everything that can go wrong.




6.  Yellow Hat

Yellow The Yellow Hat focuses on Value & Benefit ... seeking positivity and optimism. 


The strengths of a plan ... proposal ... design ... strategy.


All the good things that will come from it.




7.  The Silver Hat


 The Silver Hat is the blending hat ... it blends together all of the other hats. 

The Silver Hat is used for looking for and exploring 3rd alternatives.

A 3rd alternative is not "your way" ... it's not "my way" ... but a better way than either of us thought of originally.

A better way that takes the best parts of each & blends them together ... creating a solution that is much better than either of us came up with originally.


This is not a consensus or a compromise ... this is a better solution than either of the two options.

Maximize the benefits and the value ... eliminate the negatives


This requires humility ... trust and respect.



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Topics: Leadership, Communication, Innovation, Execution, Strategy, Tactics, Team, Winning, Purpose, Planning, Why

Travis Jacobs

Written by Travis Jacobs

Travis is the president of JA Simulations, a product design & development firm in Denver Colorado. We help clients solve problems & get to market faster with innovative & high quality products

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