Web 2.0 includes Invisible Hand
published by , on 05/07/2009

Over the past week I experienced that the good old brainstorming techniques that are derived from de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats don’t need a nudge in the Web 2.0 age.

6 Thinking Hats

I have used this brainstorming technique in a variety of different settings: to generate ideas, to solve complex problems, etc.  The Six Thinking Hats method provides a way for groups to think together more effectively. ‘Together’ is the absolute key word here: instead of having individuals reacting their own way (as usual), the group agrees to deliberately step into each possible ‘way of thinking’ sequentially. There are 6 different types of thinking or hats one can wear in a discussion:

* Neutrality (white) – considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?
* Feeling (Red) – instinctive gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)
* Negative judgment (Black) – logic applied to identifying flaws or barriers, seeking mismatch
* Positive Judgment (Yellow) – logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony
* Creative thinking (Green) – statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes
* Process control (Blue) – thinking about thinking


In my experience until last week – the Six Thinking Hats was a powerful tool to generate ideas and solve complex problems through parallel thinking. On top of that it creates a greater feeling of momentum in team that otherwise would be cluttered in a ‘being right’ discussion.

6 hats on Web 2.0??

By now most readers of this blog must have noticed that I am making my first babysteps into the Web 2.0 communities. One of them is LinkedIn, where I am lucky enough to manage the Organizational Change Practitioners group (4.722 members subscribed at the time of writing). Recently I decided to have ask the members contribute in which subgroups we would create in this forum.

What I witnessed next was multi-thinking at different dimensions at the same time. One of the most beautiful examples of Six Thinking Hats I have ever witnessed from close by!  At the time of writing, there were over 85 reactions that demonstrated the six thinking styles:

* Neutrality: people responding directly to the question at hand (e.g.:”I suggest to creat a subgroup on human behavior“)
* Feeling: people volunteering to become a subgroup manager (e.g.: “Great idea, Luc. If you need help, I would be ready to facilitate/moderate the Web 2.0 group“)
* Negative judgement (Black): people opposing to the idea of subgroups (e.g.:”Seems to me the additional structure may add bureaucracy rather than make it easier to navigate and participate.”)
* Positive Judgement (Yellow): people supporting the idea (e.g.: “I think having focused discussions would be great so that when dealing with a particular issue, you wouldn’t be all over the place.”)
* Creative thinking (Green): people suggesting additional ideas (e.g.:”Maybe a poll would be a good idea to select the final five“)
* Process control (Blue): people looking at this process happening (e.g.: “watching and participating in a wonderful new (to me at least) process: asynchronous, large-group virtual conversation and decision making“); one participant even Twittered this discussion thread!

Invisible Hand

The most fascinating observation however, was that the discussion thread almost chronologically went through all of these hats. In the same way as during brainstorming sessions each thinking hat is triggered by one reaction, which sparks a range of reactions that belong to the same thinking type.

Coincidence? Not in a million years. But then, what caused this to happen? How did the group trigger a specific hat, go to a climax of reactions, a decline and then moved on to a next hat? How did the group decide the order of the hats to think by? Honestly – I DON’T KNOW. But I did experience that we were parallel thinking! We simply cannot deny that there is some kind of invisible hand doing some fine work.

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