Like all trainers I read and borrow a great deal from others. When I am facilitating creative sessions I use a wide range of techniques from the experts and from fellow practitioners. I always try to recognise the author and to recommend their books if people find the processes that we are using to be useful and effective.
One of my Creative Thinking heroes is Edward De Bono. I have most of his books and have attended many sessions that taught his techniques. One of the most well known commonly used methodologies is the Six Thinking Hats. (If you Google the term, be prepared for lots and lots of references). However I have found that some groups just struggle to make the six hats work for them. Some get so wrapped up in the detail of the process that they lose site of their goal, others dismiss it because they tried it before without success, others still seem inhibited by the idea of wearing different coloured hats (even if they are imaginary).
However De Bono created the Six Hats as a tool to access a powerful principle that he called parallel thinking. In short it is the process of getting everyone to look at all aspects of an idea or problem from the same “cognitive stance” i.e. we will all look at the positives or the idea together, or we will look at the negatives together. This approach saves time and energy required to battle on behalf of new ideas. Parallel thinking takes the Ego out of the discussion around new ideas. It turns debate into dialogue. De Bono is not the only one to tap into Parallel Thinking the Disney Creative Process uses the construct of three rooms (the dreamer, the realist & the critic) to achieve much the same result.
So here is my version, I find it works very well with business groups who may be a little suspicious of anything that seems like a gimmick. It is a variation on the six hats (and offered with the utmost respect to Professor De Bono) We call it the 360° idea review. It is slightly more directive a process than the six hats but is very flexible and a very effective way to promote real discussion.
360° Idea Evaluation
The 360 Idea Evaluation is a combination of Six Hats and Disney Creative Process (and other) methods which allows the group to work around an idea (without the need for dressing up or extra rooms).
1. Ask the group you are working with to abide by the 360 rules as they review the idea.
Tell them that we will look at the idea from all angles and that the aim of the exercise is to be sure that we make the right decision for the right reasons..
Remind the group that as a result of the discussion, we may decide to
a) accept the idea
b) accept the idea with minor revision
c) accept the idea with major revision
d) hold the idea for now
e) reject the idea, but use elements of it as part of another solution
f) reject the idea
Make sure that everyone understands that the purpose of the dialogue is to explore the idea together.
2. Put a flipchart page on the wall or table. Make sure that everyone can see it and contribute to the discussion.
3. Using the 360 checklist, start the discussion at Instinctive Reaction at the top of the chart. Remind the group that you would like them to give their honest and instinctive response to the idea but not to provide any justifications or reasons.
It is important to get everyone’s ‘gut reaction’ to the idea because it allows emotions and instincts out and acknowledges that they are an important part of the process. This, in turn, allows people the space to look at the idea from multiple perspectives without ego issues clouding the dialogue.
Use the questions listed below as a prompt to get the discussion going. Record everyone’s answers.
4. Then move round the chart to the Data section. It helps to move either the group or the chart so that everyone is looking at it from the same perspective.
Now ask everyone “If we were to move ahead with this idea
a) What information/data do we need?
b) What do we already have?
c) Where will we get the information?”
Remember, this is not a debate about whether the idea is any good or not simply a discussion about what data we need to explore it further.
5. Next we look at the Strengths and Benefits of the idea. Once again, we move the group/chart so you are all looking at strengths from the same perspective.
Remind the group we are looking only at the strengths of the idea and the potential benefits that it might bring. Record all input.
6. The next step is to discuss the Problems & Risk associated with the idea and to identify any issues that might arise from implementing the idea.
Remind the group that no decision will be made at this time, we are simply surfacing problems that might sink the idea at a later stage.
7. When we move to the next step, Development, the whole group works together to mitigate the problems.
They can use any brainstorming technique to do so, or simply start the conversation with the question;
“If we had no choice but to implement this idea, how would we go about doing so?”
8. Finally, ask the group to step back and to Review & Decide. Review the process that you have been through. Check that the idea has been developed enough for people to feel that they can make a decision.
Remind the group that in innovation, the decision is rarely “yes” or “no” and that we may decide to do something in between (see notes for step 1).
If you have a number of options you may, as a group, apply some decision-making techniques such as “paired analysis” or “weighted rankings”