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Author: Melinda Sherwood. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
February 9, 2000. All rights reserved.
What Color Is Your Thinking Cap?: Donna Coulson
You have heard the expression "Put on your thinking
cap," but did you know that there are many thinking caps to chose
from? Six in fact, says Donna Coulson
who runs Live Your Life Staff Development in Red Bank. She will teach
members of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners about
"The Six Thinking Hats: Lateral Thinking to Improve Your
on Thursday, February 10, at 6 p.m. at the Palmer Inn. Call
"Lateral thinking," Coulson explains, "is basically
at things in different ways. The greatest enemy of thinking is
The father of lateral thinking is Edward De Bono, whose 1986 business
book, "The Six Thinking Hats," explained to entrepreneurs
how they can try different approaches to a problem or issue. Each
approach is typified by a color: The Red Hat looks at a problem from
the emotional side — the passionate side. "Most business
have a lot of red because they are passionate about what they do,"
The White Hat is the facts and figures, both known facts and
The Black Hat is the Devil’s Advocate — the perspective of
what could go wrong, while the Yellow Hat represents positive,
thinking and input. The Green Hat looks at a problem creatively, from
the perspective of innovation, and finally, the Blue Hat, is the
the perspective that pulls all of these visions together.
Typically Coulson puts business people in groups of six or seven to
tackle a business problem and each person is literally given a hat
(Coulson says she has about 100 now) and must tackle the issue
to the color. "Somebody owns the problem and then everyone else
at the table plays one of the hat roles," says Coulson.
it’s hard. Some business owners are always going to be optimists,
or passionate, and they might miss a pertinent business trend. For
example, the Black Hat basically says what else can you do? Is this
going to work? It makes people look at things not just
Coulson was introduced to "The Six Thinking Hats" by a boss
at Prudential, where she worked for 14 years as a an editor of the
personnel publication, and as a trainer and developer. She has a BA
in communications from Douglass College, Class of 1977, and an MA
from Rutgers. She helped her husband launch his own automotive
in Red Bank ("I cut my teeth on his business," she says) and
then started doing strategic planning with New Jersey Natural Gas.
She has been teaching small business management at Brookdale Community
College since 1988 and is studying to be a professional coach.
I’m in my consulting role, I tell people what to do," she
"When I’m in my coaching role, I ask people what they want to
With a wardrobe of multicolored hats, business owners essentially
learn how to be their own coach, consultant, and board of directors,
says Coulson. "You learn how to ask people discovery questions,
you learn about listening, responding, working with people to decide
what goals they want to set," she says.
And no business is complete without each hat represented. What color
hat is missing from your business?
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