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How to use creativity in business analysis and transformation

Quite often in the business world of hard-nosed, data-driven and logical analysis, creativity can be left behind. Many see it as too unstructured, or “right brained” with a lack of rigor and discipline.

What if there was a way to combine logic, process, structure AND creativity? Well there are in fact many business analysis and ideation tools that facilitate this combination, but one the team at Expert Toolkit like in particular is the Six Thinking Hats Method, created by Edward de Bono.

What is creativity and why is important in business?

Simply put, creativity helps generate fresh ideas and innovative solutions for business problems. In this context, creativity is critical. Creativity is in fact a business analysis tool, a business problem solving tool, a business transformation tool and a business strategy tool! But creativity doesn’t come simply by blocking off some time in the calendar and hopping into a meeting room with a whiteboard and some colored markers:

  • Being truly creative requires focused attention to get the mind to think differently than it typically does during a normal business day.
  • Just trying to be creative isn’t usually very successful either. The mind wants to think the way that it normally thinks.

A creative technique that is familiar to us all is brainstorming, but there are many others. The most powerful creative techniques, used by high impact business advisors utilize deliberate methods to generate different thinking and breakthrough ideas. Proficient practitioners of creativity in the workplace also know how to utilize creative environments and special-purpose events to drive business problem solving, creative solutioning and idea generation. Ultimately, the goal of a good business analyst, management consultant or strategic business advisor is to have a variety of creativity tools and techniques to draw upon. This provides flexibility to pick the approach most suited to the situation and problem being solved.

Introducing the Six Thinking Hats Method

The Six Thinking Hats Method is a powerful business analysis tool for problem solving and idea generation. It is a workshop-oriented method that requires individual participants to think and perform in a certain way (based on the hat they are "wearing") to help explore issues creatively, objectively and from many pre-defined perspectives. To use the method, colored "thinking" hats are allocated to individuals who are then asked to think about the issue with that specific hat on. The hats are:

  • White: Information and data focused;
  • Red: Based on feelings, intuition, hunches and emotions;
  • Black: Cautious, judgmental, critical;
  • Yellow: Optimistic, positive, glass half-full;
  • Green: Generator of creative energy, ideas, stimulation;
  • Blue: Process-oriented, keeping the creativity moving.

The Six Thinking Hats

The Six Thinking Hats Business Creativity Tool - Business Analysis Tool, Problem Solving Tool - used by the team at Expert Toolkit

What are the benefits of the Six Thinking Hats Method?

The technique has many benefits and it is very effective at overcoming the typical blockages experienced in business problem solving:

  • It is great at stopping persistent negativity that can exist within organizations or programs. The "black hat" dominates many environments - Six Hat Thinking gives voice to the other 5 hats;
  • It is very effective at legitimizing creative thinking time. It is highly creative, but it comes with structure and process which can make it feel appropriate in a business environment;
  • It helps separate ideas from people. This can encourage individuals to give credit to the ideas of other people and groups to willingly adopt the ideas of individuals.

What should you watch out for?

Like any business analysis tool or method, Six Thinking Hats has its limitations that need to be considered:

  • It can be fun, but sometimes participants can start to think of it too much like a game and it loses the seriousness of the problem or the objective being addressed;
  • To use the technique optimally, rotate the hats amongst individuals and resist the urge for any one person to always secure their preferred hat;
  • It can take time for an organization’s culture to accept the use of formal creative techniques. Watch out for resistance and perhaps start exploring the use of the tool with smaller, more experimental teams.

When to use it?

The Six Thinking Hats Method can be used regularly and as a one off in challenging situations. A good example of its use in a systematic, regular fashion would be the structured, consistent application of the technique in the early-stages of the product development process. It can also be used within a normal meeting to improve the quality of output. Try asking either the team or an individual to put on one hat at a time and seeing what emerges!

Go ahead, try it out. Watch your business problem solving and business analysis endeavors become more effective when you leverage some structured creativity.

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