When you’re creative, you can innovate, see new possibilities, and think up new solutions. This is the role of the Green Hat— another hat in the collection of thinking styles that Professor Edward de Bono developed in his “Six Thinking Hats” model.
Previously, I discussed the Blue Hat and how it helps you to size up a situation. Green Hat thinking enables you do something completely different: instead of assessing the data, you look beyond it. In essence, you’re leaving the realm of knowledge and entering the dimension of imagination. If Blue Hat thinking offered the possibility of making you an expert planner, then Green Hat thinking aims to make you a superb ”imagineer”—a neologism popularized by Walt Disney that combines the meticulous precision of an engineer with the carefree spontaneity of an artist. Green Hat thinkers look at creative alternatives to a given plan, within the constraints of time, brainstorming as many ideas as they can within a short time-frame (creativity need not be drawn out). Oftentimes, Green Hat thinking allows you to find new opportunities that may have been revealed in optimistic Yellow Hat thinking or overcome problems discovered in the course of using pessimistic Black Hat thinking.
Green Hat Thinking Examples
Green Hat thinking comes naturally to chess players. Bobby Fischer excelled at finding new combinations that startled his opponents. In 1963, when Bobby Fischer was only 20 years old, he beat Grandmaster Robert Byrne in a game that Byrne appeared to be winning. Fischer’s moves were so unpredictable that neither Byrne nor other observing GMs saw them until it was too late. This game earned Fischer the brilliancy prize for the tournament. Similarly, financial success is not always about finding and buying the right assets and watching them appreciate. Some of the most profitable investments come from tapping into pure innovation. Relentless creativity is responsible for the fortunes of Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle. But creativity doesn’t only flourish in brilliant IT source coding. Sometimes ideas can be so startling that they boggle the imagination. Sir Richard Branson, for instance, sees space as the next investment frontier. According to a New York Times article as far back as 2009, Branson and Aabar investments sold $40 million dollars’ worth of flight time to 300 people around the world who want to be the first space tourists on a commercial spaceship.
Green Hat thinking in chess or finances changes the game. Sometimes innovation comes in the form of clever tweaks to an existing plan. At other times, ideas, like Bobby Fischer’s game against Byrne or Sir Richard Branson’s venture into space tourism, are so beyond the norm that they are startling.