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Case Studies

Six Thinking Hats at Bosch Saves Meeting Time and Keeps Egos in Check

Reporter: Lynda Curtin, The Opportunity Thinker

Future by Design Conference Presenter: Bernard Balle, Bosch, Germany

Background: Bosch, a global leader in automotive technology, headquartered in Germany, generated $43 billion in sales during 2000. Bernard Balle, internal coordinator for the process improvement process, in the thermo technology division, shared this experience using the Six Thinking Hats® tool with a cross culture group.

Four years ago Edward de Bono introduced the thermo technology group, an engineering based division within the company, to his thinking techniques. This sparked Bernard Balle to become a certified Six Thinking Hats® instructor to conduct this training. He also facilitates meetings using the Six Thinking Hats® method.

Challenge: A catastrophe meeting was called with the mandate, "To develop a new appliance." Participants flew in from Germany, Great Britain, France, Turkey and Portugal. There was a wide variance in English proficiency among the group members, not to mention cultural assumptions about how the people from the different countries would contribute to the challenge.

The Six Hats was used during a meeting that lasted one and a half hours. The group concluded they did not have enough white hat—information, data, and facts, to be able to productively participate in a meeting to develop a new appliance. Typically, groups would go on and on and on to fill up the time allotment, wasting time, accomplishing nothing. The tool enabled the group to recognize they needed to break, collect information, and plan another meeting, which they did; refreshing and productive actions.

Bernard reported that use of the Six Hats structure:

  • Enabled the quiet people to contribute;
  • Included a proper place for feelings and emotions to be expressed;
  • Surprised some people attending that every person attending had clever ideas to contribute to the challenge. Good ideas weren't exclusive to a group from one country.

Bernard also shared the following tips:

  • Hang a Six Thinking Hat® poster in every meeting room to remind teams to use the tool.
  • Provide a useful job aid. Bernard had a tent card designed as a Six Thinking Hats® reminder for everyone which resulted from a marketing idea. Each month a different tent card is distributed to reinforce something important for employees. They discovered the only tent card that lasted longer than a month was the Six Thinking Hats® card.

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