Whether you’re freelancing or working on a team, meeting project deadlines can wear everyone thin. Put on your thinking cap and sync up with your coworkers with this illuminating exercise.
If you work in a creative field, it can be difficult to meet deadline after deadline. You give each project your all, you race to finish on time, and you submit projects with an overwhelming sense of relief (and hopefully pride!) — only to be tasked with the next assignment. It’s understandable that creative professionals feel a little burned out every once in a while, but that’s all the more reason to invest your time and energy in strategies that will keep your mental faculties sharp and raring to go.
One particular thought experiment designed by Edward de Bono in his 1985 book Six Thinking Hats encourages individuals or teams to break out of their normal trains of thought by metaphorically trying on different “hats” during a discussion. These six hats — logic, optimism, devil’s advocate, emotion, creativity, and management — can help teams channel new perspectives that facilitate cooperation and inspire a fresh take on old problems.
The wearer of the logic hat keeps their two feet firmly planted on the ground. Responsible for the facts, the wearer reminds team members of what essential details need to be kept in mind while working on a project. What information is available? What do we know we have to accomplish? What can be accomplished on our timeline?
While this hat may seem like a given, it often takes the backburner to loftier ideals. Anyone who’s participated in a group brainstorm session can attest that flashy ideas and ambitions can quickly outpace the reality of what’s possible within a project’s scope. By keeping the facts in mind, it’s more likely that your team won’t get carried away.
Whoever wears the optimism hat approaches the project — and accompanying deadlines — within the framework of what is positive and possible.
For example, the optimism hat prompts the wearer to address how certain aspects of a project will support wider team goals. In group discussions that often trend toward the negative, the wearer can steer team members back in a constructive direction.
3) Devil’s Advocate
“Just to push back on that…”
Whoever wears the Devil’s Advocate hat is the voice of caution for their team. While not being overtly destructive, their goal is to consider everything from an opposing point of view. Will this satisfy the client’s demands? Are you sure this is going to come across the way you intend? What will we say if it doesn’t?
Outright negativity can wreak havoc on any collaborative process and needlessly delay time-sensitive projects — but making sure that you’re anticipating obstacles well in advance can be an invaluable asset.
The wearer of the emotion hat speaks from a place of feeling and intuition. With someone wearing the emotion hat, teams stand a better chance of keeping the human dimension of their work in mind and delivering a project that’s more than the sum of its parts.
While projects need to satisfy client expectations on a fundamental level, exceptional work requires your team to be personally invested in producing the best possible outcome.
With the creativity hat, the wearer’s role in brainstorm sessions, discussions, and team meetings is to offer new possibilities and new lines of attack. While each and every one of their ideas doesn’t need to be included in the finished product, this team member helps propel the creative process forward.
For example, asking bold questions or making dramatic suggestions may not result in a major breakthrough — or allow for a redesign if the team is working on a tight deadline — but it might encourage coworkers to consider new angles that can, little by little, move a project in a more innovative direction.
Whoever wears the management hat is, well, a manager. While it may be exciting (and often fruitful) to see what direction the five other hats bring a group project, the manager is tasked with moderating the discussion so that participants are interacting in a constructive, focused way. It’s up to the wearer of the management hat to remind the team that, first and foremost, they’re working on a deadline, and to usher the team towards an optimal (and feasible) solution.