Over the years I’ve done a couple of management and leadership training courses, and read many books to help better understand my working style. I find them incredibly useful to reflect and understand how I and others work.
But one book that has had a big impact on how I approach working in PR is Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. You can find it on Amazon here.
I regularly look back on certain chapters, and it has provided me with a framework for thinking about what is going on with both projects and with the way teams work. This book has helped me to better communicate to my team, to clients and to the media.
The six thinking hats technique is designed to make us think differently and with greater empathy. It allows us to see ideas from a different perspective.
And personally, I think we all need to be empathetic at the moment.
There are six hats that help you consider potential decisions from a number of important perspectives. Thinking this way forces you to move outside your own habitual thinking style and helps ensure a more rounded view of a situation.
For PR teams up and down the country, employees will have many different qualities as everyone is different. But instead of trying to force everyone to think the same way, we should actively embrace the differences. When it comes to working in PR, we need to respect and understand the situation, and cater our communication and thinking accordingly.
Each of Edward De Bono’s coloured hats represents a different planning and decision-making style.
White hat - A PR will think of all the facts involved in the issue. Whether delivering feedback or trying to problem solve, white hats will focus on the data available, examine the information and learn from it. Think of a SWOT analysis - this is a great example of white hat thinking. They look for gaps in knowledge, and try to come to a logical conclusion.
Yellow hat - A PR that wears a yellow hat will often maintain an optimistic viewpoint. In an ideation session, they will never knock ideas down as soon as they are suggested. It’s all positive.
Green hat - Anyone wearing the green hat will be looking to solve problems. They usually consider all the possibilities involved around a particular issue, or are first to call a brainstorm. Green-hat thinking means thinking creatively and creating a freewheeling environment with little criticism of ideas.
Black hat - The best way to describe a PR wearing a black hat is a glass half empty. But this isn't necessarily a negative. This thinking and focus allows us to spot fatal flaws and risks before we start on a campaign or project. While wearing a black hat, PRs can make a PR strategy tougher and more resilient.
Red hat - Red-hat thinking approaches a situation using intuition, gut reaction, and emotions. Often perceived as erratic, but it’s important to understand how other people will react on an emotional level. We as PRs need to anticipate the responses of those who do not understand the reasoning behind a plan.
Blue hat - Think of an analytical working style, and you’ll find a blue hat. They often oversee and manage the planning process. Blue hat PRs often facilitate meetings and enjoy the greater details in a project. When getting briefed, blue hats need to know the costs, deadline, resources and all the information at once.
Some days, we will wear one of the hats. For example, on a PR strategy planning day we will need to wear a blue hat. Then another day we’ll be doing ideation sessions and put on our green hats. Bear in mind that hats can clash too. If a red hat is reacting off instinct and gut feel, then a black hat might struggle as they look at the risks and advise on caution.
Many PRs are creative, many are great planners, and we are all good problem solvers, so we all without knowing wear different hats. Some people will be naturally more analytical, and some will be more risk-averse - that’s in our human nature. But being able to reflect and step back is important when we’re facing a challenge or have a decision to make.
PRs need to understand and flex between these hats, from strategic planning to ideation to campaign delivery. We can all learn from thinking with a different hat on.
It’s also worth mentioning that Edward De Bono has another great book specifically on coming up with creative ideas. This book’s called How to Have Creative Ideas and is also worth checking out on Amazon or another bookshop.