IBM Chief Scientist Uses Six Thinking Hats as a Collaboration Tool

Fortune Magazine: The New Team Work (4/28/14)

IBM Chief Scientist Uses Six Thinking Hats as a Collaboration Tool

Many teams are global. Working collaboratively together to solve tough challenges is very hard to do. Some teams are working collaboratively. A recent issue of Fortune Magazine (04/28/14) highlights the approach taken by IBM Fellow and chief scientist Dharmendra Modha in an article titled The New Teamwork: Collaboration has Never Been More Crucial in Business.

The Project: Develop a chip that would mimic the human brain.

The challenge:
Corral an unwieldy team of more than 200 of the brightest scientists at eight different IBM labs, two government laboratories, and five university campuses with diverse areas of expertise.

The Result: Modha's team successfully demonstrated a brain-inspired chip architecture.

The Method: The journalist describes it this way, "An old school organizational technique, Six Thinking Hats, not software saved the day."  


Dr. Edward de Bono wrote the book Six Thinking Hats in 1985. It quickly became an international best seller. Business professionals around the world wanted to learn how to use the method in work environments; they wanted to move from intellectual understanding to skill building. They knew the method would help improve business results if they could get groups thinking productively together.


The method untangles thinking. It separates out six different thinking ingredients: information, gut instinct, problems, benefits, ideas, and focus. Teams collaborate by sharing their thinking one thinking ingredient at a time. This approach helps teams think more broadly and thoroughly about each challenge and often leads to strong results like this one from IBM.


Three tips for you:

  1. When you're leading a project team, select a process and tools for the team to use. Ensure each team member understands each process step and is competent using the tools. This approach facilitates effective collaboration. 
  2. Your thinking is important. Bring your unique insights to your work, your team, your colleagues, and your customers; they want to know what you think. Thinking drives the direction of the future. Your thinking toolkit needs to be robust. If you're missing some thinking tools, it's time to skill-up.
  3. Resist getting caught up in the "technology trap." Sometimes thinking will do the trick; after all, your brain is always with you.    


If you need to be more collaborative, select processes and tools that will help your group gang up on the challenge instead of ganging up on each other.   


LIFT your thinking ... until next time.

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