Business Issues  


by Dr KC Chan and Priscilla Tanjung

While there are many versions of holistic thinking, if we apply the six thinking hats from Edward de Bono, a threat can also be manifested as an opportunity. Thus, the concept of holistic thinking has the ability to generate more creative and innovative ways of integrating ideas and/or concepts for better understanding. This article aims to enrich our focus from one dimensional to three dimensional treatment by addressing “What, Why and How” things work from a modern holistic thinking approach leveraging on de Bono’s lateral thinking.

Figure 1. Modern Holistic Thinking Approach

Figure 2. Outcome of Modern Holistic Thinking Approach

The above example is known as a 360 degree holistic approach where professionals from different training and educational backgrounds will look at things differently. Each perspective is correct in its own school of thought. See Figures 1 and 2. Nevertheless, when it comes to creativity and innovation this approach is still inadequate.

Lateral Thinking (The Six Thinking Hats)
Leveraging on the lateral thinking (six thinking hats) treatment results in a more comprehensive solution. Therefore, to be more effective at planning and analysis, it is essential to apply holistic thinking and lateral thinking respectively for the awareness and alignment advantage, in order to achieve ultimate clarity in planning. See Figure 3.

Figure 3. The Six Thinking Hats Treatment originated by Edward de Bono (1985).

We will continue to illustrate the benefits of lateral thinking using the same example.

• White Hat: For a six sigma consultant, the process of DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze- Improve-Control) is used to identify the root of the problem before carrying out any corrective or preventive actions. Hence, resources are being underutilized which results in sub-optimization and increments instead of significant cost reduction. Professionals such as engineers, accountants, lawyers, etc. fall under this category of personnel.

• Red Hat: Improvements are not based on facts but instead on opinions. Thus prioritization is not based on scientific or business models but “emotional models”. Emotionally unintelligent people who are resistant to adapt hinder the enhancement of organizational capability regardless of their position held or seniority/rank in the organization.

• Black Hat: Over-aggressiveness in business ventures or adopting the “high risk for high return” attitude without proper risk management planning, is bad management. Thus, risk management planning needs to cover four key areas i.e. people, process and tools, without forgetting the strategy (short-term, mid-term or long-term). Quality assurance/control or risk planning are normally under this group of specialists.

• Yellow Hat: Risks can be positive (opportunity) or negative (threat). Therefore, risk strategies can also be planned for minimizing threats by preventing it from happening and maximizing opportunities by exploring them to their fullest. Black hat personnel are typically pessimistic (risk adverse) while yellow hat personnel are optimistic (risk seeking); Yellow hat qualities are typically exhibited by sales and marketing personnel, intrapreneurs (corporate entrepreneurs), etc.

• Green Hat: The creative and innovate type whose passion is lifelong action learning and experimenting, continuously creating alternative solutions. Some of these are rare in supply, for example the late Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, etc. Money is not their chief reason but “disruptive technology”, i.e. how to invent and improve technology so that it is affordable and easy to use to replace conventional means. Professionals with these attributes are usually technopreneurs, inventors and entrepreneurs.

• Blue Hat: Someone must be made aware of the responsibility to chair meetings, while keeping a helicopter view of the project, which has to be aligned to the strategic business objectives. Projects obtain their funds from investments. Therefore, what if the project manager underestimates the importance of his role to ensure the optimization and maximum utilization of the organization’s resources allocated, to meet stakeholder expectations and project requirements? If the outcome of the project is delayed, the penalty bond may wipe out the profit for the project. In the worst case scenario, the customer may decide not to pay for the project due to developer’s non-compliance to regulations. Top management must decide to delegate the “big picture” role to the project manager as well. Project management is not everything. But without project management lies everything that will expose investments to risk. Can we afford another new MRT line to resolve the current issues?

A Concept Diagram that encapsulate the What, Why and How of a concept will be developed to round up the holistic approach. See Figure 4.

Figure 4. Concept Diagram: Holistic Approach.

In concluding, the future of communications is to keep idea/concept simple, short, sweet, and sharp. Visual is more effective than words for the “WOW” effect. Words is to connect the feelings with the reasoning to inspire to the next higher energy and enthusiasm level. Both are complimentary and absolutely interdependent for sustainable impact. By completing the boxes of the Concept Diagram the successful execution capability of the strategy can be ascertain with certainty.

Professor KC Chan is a practice professor and strategic project management and international business consultant

Priscilla Tanjung is a final year honours degree student at Petra Christian University (Surabaya, Indonesia) specialising in International Business Management