The first business book I ever read!

I thought it would be a good start to this blog, to write about the first “business” book that I ever read. Spoiler Alert: It was Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.

I spent 4 years at University studying Maths and wanted to go into a career which actually allowed me to use what I studied. My brother’s friend (who is 7 years older than me) studied Chemistry at University and was working in a Bookies because he couldn’t get a job using his degree.

I didn’t want to spend 4 years of my life, and then not actually use what I’d learned.

So, I did the obvious thing, my Dad was an accountant so I applied to the “big 4” accountancy firms at the time: KPMG, Deloitte, PwC and EY. With a 1st class in my degree, and a masters in numerical analysis I (mistakenly) thought it’d be easy to get a job.

Wait – what’s this got to do with Six Thinking Hats? I’m glad you asked. I’d reached the first stage interview at KPMG and this was an online “personality” questionnaire which, automatically on the back of it I got a rejection.

No chance to show my work. No chance to have a chat with anyone. Just a hard NO, but with it, a list of books that I might want to read before “trying again next year”.

That’s what led me to Six Thinking Hats, the hats being:-

  • White Hat – the facts and figures.
  • Red Hat – the emotional view.
  • Black Hat – the “devil’s advocate”
  • Yellow Hat – the positive side.
  • Green Hat – the creative side.
  • Blue Hat – the organizing view.

It’s been a while since I read the book (back in 2004, which is worryingly getting on 20 years ago now) – but I certainly enjoyed the book and it helped me thinking more outside the numbers which I clearly did through an education in Maths.

Wait, give me an example!

Sure. Consider the following scenario

You’re running a construction business and you’ve been presented with an opportunity from a developer to build a retirement complex on a piece of land near a pub which has been left to go to wasteland. The contract is worth $10m to your business, but green land would be taken over.

Should you accept the work?

  • White Hat: Yes. The contract is valuable and your workforce will be kept in jobs for the next 2-3 years.
  • Red Hat: Maybe. Retirement complex could come with extra considerations to other use cases. Wasteland could return to inhabited greenland again with some care and attention.
  • Black Hat: What if something is hiding in the numbers, or roadblocks get in the way. Would putting retirement complex next to a pub devalue the pub’s business?
  • Yellow Hat: More housing for the elderly is in need, it’s profitable and will make use of wasteland.
  • Green Hat: Could we do something different to help utilise the contact and increase the value to the developer.
  • Blue Hat: If we go ahead, is the timeframe realistic. What about supply chain issues? How do we organise this and does this present any unknown difficulties?

Then, taking into account all of the “hats” the construction business might decide NOT to go ahead with the work.

If you’ve not read the book, I’d recommend giving it a whirl. It’s not my favourite book (I’ll be writing about more books future posts) but it’s a good one to start.

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