Six Thinking Hats & Six Action Shoes
This is part two of a two-part series on Edward de Bono’s theories on thinking and problem solving.
By; Nulacha Sutthinonthagul
De Bono’s second book, Six Action Shoes, provides an alternative way of thinking move to help implement decisions. Each “Action Shoe” describes a different style of action, as explained below:
1. Navy Formal Shoes: Routine behavior
• Dark or Navy Blue is the color of a wide array of uniforms of armed services that have drills, routines and formal procedures. Navy shoe action means ‘doing it by the book’, i.e., following procedures step by step.
• This shoe action mode means going through an established, formal routine. It is not mindless repetition, but a conscious, rational decision that leads to action by the book, for the most effective results.
• At times, following a procedure is necessary and more effective. In these situations, a routine often represents the best possible way to move ahead.
2. Gray Sneakers: Collect information
• Gray is the color of brainwork, as in “the old gray matter”, which is used to investigate something in greater detail.
• This shoe action mode is all about collecting information as the basis to form a theory and then testing it. This color suggests neutrality (avoid early conclusions), thinking (using the gray matter of the brain) and unobtrusive action.
• Overall, this is about absorbing information systematically, comprehensively and completely. The information gathered will then become the basis for action in another mode.
3. Brown Brogues: Pragmatism and Practicality
• Brown is the color of earth and represents what is down-to-earth. Brown brogues are put on to take practical action.
• This shoe action mode is deliberately low-key. It is a response to changing requirements of a developing situation. It requires an assessment of the situation, setting priorities and then action at your initiative.
• Pragmatism is a key aspect. Look for what is simple, practical and effective. Have a plan, but be prepared to change to another if required. Maintain control of the situation by being flexible enough to cope with whatever arises.
4. Orange Gumboots: Emergency response
• Orange is the color of warning signs. This is an action to avert a crisis.
• This shoe action mode is about responding to an emergency warming or alarm and when immediate responders wear their tough rubber boots.
• The main focus is on reducing a danger to life and limb, which requires an accurate assessment of a situation and a strategy for action that is unified, unambiguous and rational. The balance between any action and the effects of inaction is constantly monitored, and priorities are considered fully and carefully.
5. Pink Slippers: Human caring
• Pink is the color of comfort, caring and understanding. It is important to consider and respect others’ feelings.
• This shoe action mode removes any mental distinctions about different people and suggests that every person should be treated with respect, understanding and compassion as far as possible. It is the simple belief that care should be freely available to everyone.
6. Purple Riding Boots: Use your authority
• Purple is the color of pomp, splendor and represents responsible thinking on what we should do.
• The shoe action mode is a style of authority. In effect, it is role-playing, with behavior and judgments set by the role, which must be consistent. People need to signal when they are acting in their official capacity to avoid confusion with their personal belief system when they are not acting as officially.
• Even within an official role, there is always room for initiative, and there must be respect for socially acceptable principles of justice and equality. An official role draws its power from the law, not from acting above the law.
The Benefits of the Six Thinking Hats and Six Action Shoe models help formalize one’s thinking and decision making to solve a problem by considering alternative approaches to thinking. These help to reduce internal and external disagreement and dissension. As a result, a person’s thinking and decision-making processes will be more open, structured and productive.