Gentle Bamboo Solutions

Green Hat “How to think past the first few ideas…”


Long time email subscriber and friend Amit replied to my email The Green Hat, and shared his thoughts. With his permission, I quote below his response and try to respond to it:

I am really happy at the same time amazed to know how you make sure that keep wearing the green hat all the time.
I get satisfied with my first few ideas about everything that I do.

Any suggestions to improve on wearing the green hat and keep making self uncomfortable always.

This is an all too common problem. The first few ideas that come to mind are usually practical and feasible. They are obvious enough that there is no need to think further. We are all in that position frequently. The Green Hat is a solution to this specific human tendency of becoming satisfied.

The Green Hat encourages you to think of creative ideas for the sake of thinking. It’s kind of like going to a mall and immediately finding a shirt that looks good, fits well and is within budget. Most people still look around. Even if we are clear that this is the one we will buy eventually, we don’t make the decision immediately. That’s because we have taken the effort to drive all the way and invest some time in the exercise. More time was budgeted for the process, and it feels like it would be a waste if we don’t consume the allocated time budget.

We need to start treating creative thinking the same way. We have to allocate time towards it. Every time a challenge presents itself or an opportunity is to be pursued, rather than doing the first (or the second) thing that comes to mind, we need to say, "I give this process 30 mins". (Or 60 or 90 or 120 mins. It doesn’t matter how much, but there has to be a fixed amount of time).

Assuming the solution strikes us in the first 5 mins, we are now obliged to still consume the remaining time. This is when the Green Hat truly shines. Find new solutions by –

1. Adding new constraints

2. Changing initial assumptions

3. Considering worst case scenarios where nothing works

4. Considering best case scenarios where everything works

Basically, we have to learn to trick the mind to think for the sake of thinking until we actually start enjoying the process and becoming good at it.

Another way (which Rakshith and I use) is to schedule a weekly conversation where we only talk about impractical ideas for an hour. We call it Bamboo Shoots, and the written down purpose of that is to talk about nascent and strange ideas which may never see the light of the day. And yet, it is those conversations that have led to every single innovative product we have built till date.

Give "forced creativity" a chance. You will surprise yourself.

Going green,