Thinking Outside de Bono
“Doubt is an uncomfortable condition, but certainty is a ridiculous one.” – Voltaire
When it comes to your police promotion process, simply thinking about thinking can be stressful. Lack of information or ideas, combined with self-limiting thoughts and beliefs, can mean valuable thinking time is frittered away.
One officer recently described the value and benefit of having time to think ahead of their promotion board as a chance to “Tame the monsters in your head”. That’s a powerful way to describe internal worries, fears and uncertainty that can arise when a promotion process opens.
“The soul becomes dyed with the colour of it’s thoughts.” – Marcus Aurelius
Questions may include:
- What evidence do I have?
- How will I talk about the role?
- Am I really good enough?
- Who can help with this?
- Will having no acting/temporary experience go against me?
- Which of my examples best demonstrate the competencies?
- What kind of questions will I be asked?
- What’s a good way to answer them?
- What is the panel really looking for?
“Stop thinking too much; it’s alright not to know all the answers.”
‘Picking up’ on language, as with the term ‘monsters’ above, is what trained coach/mentors do. I sometimes ask officers to describe how they feel about the exciting opportunity of getting a promotion board. It’s not uncommon or surprising to hear responses such as:
- “I feel like a lamb to slaughter”, or
- “It feels like I’m a rabbit in the headlights”, or
- “I feel like the walls are closing in”
When coaching I may also ask: “How are you thinking?”.
“I don’t know how to think about this” is a common answer. “Relentless mental activity”, “Overwhelming” or “Mentally tiring” is how some officers describe their state of thinking. It’s understandable. It’s also OK not to know all the answers at this stage. It’s honest language and we can go forward from there. After all, no one walks around in a state of preparation ready to pass a promotion board.
With the daunting prospect of an interview to prepare for, the day job and life outside the job all-occurring at the same time, ‘headspace overload’ is common. Clear thinking is not. When this happens, a holistic approach to thinking things through can aid clarity, develop insight and build personal confidence. Taming any monsters that may be lurking inside your head might simply require you to be in possession of the correct hat.
Get Your Thinking Caps On
“Two per cent of people think; three per cent of people think they think; and 95 per cent of people would rather die than think.”- G.B. Shaw
Organisations who have used ‘Six Thinking Hats’ include NASA, IBM, Siemens, Microsoft, British Airways and BP. These imaginary hats help organise thinking processes into a detailed cohesive and flexible manner. Each hat has its own colour, to facilitate a different ‘direction’ for thinking and widening the lens or scope. You can ‘put on’ or ‘take off’ any of the hats at any time.
“Colour is the language of the poets. It is astonishingly lovely. To speak it is a privilege.” – Keith Crown
- White – Information gathering
- Red – Emotions & intuition
- Yellow – Optimism
- Black – Devil’s advocate
- Green – Creativity
- Blue – Overview
Now let’s take a quick look under each hat, the direction of thinking it facilitates and some questions that you may want to ask yourself as part of your preparation ahead of a promotion opportunity…
White – Thought process: Information gathering
“In the age of information, ignorance is a choice.” – Donald Miller
The white hat is about information and data. It is used to identify further information that may be needed. Questions to be asked/answered under the white hat may include:
- What information/facts do I know?
- What information is missing?
- What information / facts would I like to have?
- How am I going to get the information?
- What is relevant?
- What is most important?
Red- Thought process: Feelings, intuition and emotions
“Told you so.” – Sincerely, Your Intuition
The red hat allows you to express your feelings without having to offer a rational explanation. Questions to be asked/answered under the red hat may include:
- How do I feel about this right now?
- Do I have a good feeling about this?
- Could this work?
- How am I reacting to this?
- How cold or warm do I feel about this?
Yellow – Thought process: Benefits and feasibility
“Optimism is a faith that leads to success.” – Bruce Lee
The yellow hat is the optimistic hat encouraging consideration of the bright side of a new idea or decision and to view it logically and rationally. Questions to be asked/answered under the yellow hat may include:
- Why is this worth doing?
- What are the good points?
- What are the benefits?
- Why will this work?
- What’s the best-case scenario?
- Why can it be done?
Black – Thought process: Devil’s advocate, caution, criticism
“Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” – Abraham Lincoln
This thinking is for a stern judge to critically assess the risks. ‘Checking’ and ‘checking out’ are important in explaining use of the black hat and to convey the essence of critical thinking. The black hat can be the most useful for critical judgement. De Bono warns against its overuse however, as this can kill creative ideas and positivity. Black hat questions may include:
- Is this true?
- Where are the risks?
- What are the weaknesses?
- Will it work?
- Why it won’t work?
- What is wrong with it?
- What’s the worst-case scenario?
Green – Thought process: Creativity, new ideas and possibilities
“Creativity is intelligence having fun!” – Albert Einstein
The green hat is your creative thinking hat for new ideas and innovative approaches. Every new idea should be heard and not criticised at this stage. Green hat questions may include:
- What are some possible options to work this out?
- Is there a new way I could do this?
- What other approaches are there to this issue/challenge?
- Are there alternatives I haven’t considered?
Blue – Thought process: The Sky and Overview; Thinking about thinking
“Strategic thinking rarely occurs spontaneously.” – Michael Porter
The blue hat asks for summaries, conclusions and decisions. It can be used at the start and finish of your thinking process. Blue hat questions may include:
- Who? What? When? Where? Why?
- What am I thinking about?
- Definition of the situation or problem?
- What do I want to achieve?
- What decisions are required?
- Where do I want to end up?
Food for Thought…
The thinking hats metaphor represents six different cognitive approaches that can help you prepare. They’ll help facilitate more focused thinking,improved exploration of ideas and aid creativity in your approach.
Action: If you want to trigger, challenge and support your critical thinking TODAY, why not download a FREE guide such as: ‘7 Things Promotion Boards Also Look For’.
In the meantime, I’ll leave the last word to de Bono:
“Confusion arises when we try to do too much at once… the six hats method allows us to take one direction at a time.”
Kind Regards, Steve
Wherever you are on your promotion journey, Rank Success can help you with comprehensive guidance and support.