Saturday, June 10, 2006

Getting Things Done with Six Thinking Hats

[N.B. I did try and keep this post shorter but the necessity brevity did not come to mind - my humble apologies!]

I recently finished Edward de Bono's "Six Thinking Hats" which I found quite resonant with David Allen's "Getting Things Done". The central theme to both books seems to be about doing a> one thing at a time and b> (not quite as strongly) that one thing once.

These two principles are surprisingly strong and when employed/applied, and subsequently relieving (for GTD David Allen made the analogy to a golf swing - to hit the ball further you don't focus on hitting the ball harder but on getting the swing so that it flows naturally).

GTD is split into 5 activities:
* Collect - "gather all the stuff"
* Process - "decide if anything has to be done"
* Organise - "decide where it should go - in the bin, file for reference (project), or in a someday/maybe list"
* Review - "decide next actions"
* Do - "do it, delegate it, or defer it"

The strongest idea here is that you only do something once and then once done you can forget about it because you trust the system. At present a lot of people (my old self included) keep their emails that require some action from them as unread in their mailboxes. This means that everyime they open their mailbox they see this implicit reminder that there is something still to be done, so they open the mail and decide again that they are not in the mood for doing it today or that it still requires some other information or something and so leave it unchanged (and therefore unprogressed) as unread in their mailbox...

GTD is, at its most basic level, about separating out mails that require action from those that don't and identifying the next action required to move things forward. The rest of it is about removing the low-hanging-fruit and prioritising what to do next (and implicitly in that tracking progress).

6TH is about getting groups to 'more fully' debate an issue in a "cooperative" way as opposed to the more traditional "combative" forms of argument. It does this by having everyone wear the same hat (the "hats" are symbols for different "directions" of thinking; there are six in total) at the same time.So, for instance, a "white hat" is for just facts and figures and no interpretation; a "red hat" is for (unjustified) emotions/feelings (you yourself can perceive them as being justifiable, but that is just window dressing to everyone else); a "black hat" is for analytic, crticical thinking; a "yellow hat" is for looking at the positive aspects; the "green hat" is for being creative; and finally the "blue hat" is for "thinking about thinking" (=putting a framework around everyone's input to drive to a conclusion).

I'm interested in other people's views of these books/the techniques described in them...

[By the way, some info about de Bono: he coined the term "lateral thinking" in 1967 and started the concept of "neighbourhood watch" in 1971. Two ideas in his book "Simplicity" really stood out to me: polluting factories should be downstream of their river outputs, and anybody who eliminates their own job should keep half the pay of that job.]

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