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My favourite guru: Chris Fung on Edward de Bono

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My top business guru is Edward de Bono. One of the most successful theories developed by de Bono is “six hats thinking”. This is a powerful technique used to look at a problem from a number of important perspectives. 

By using a structured process to think through an issue from different viewpoints, “six hats thinking” allows for a more complete analysis of a situation. Rational facts as well as creative thought and emotional responses to issues are explored more openly and transparently.

Each coloured hat provides a different perspective:

  • White: facts and data focused
  • Red: emotional responses
  • Black: downside risks and devil’s advocate
  • Yellow: positive points and benefits
  • Green: creative solutions
  • Blue: process control and chairing of the process. 

Better, more rounded decisions can be taken using this approach.

How de Bono has influenced my business approach:

De Bono’s “six hats” and lateral thinking techniques has made me become more habitually creative and has led me consider more consistently the impact of how a wild idea might translate into practical reality! At Crussh, it has helped us to make better and more original decisions that give us a competitive edge.

A practical example:

A few years ago – the only way to do toasties for most companies was to use a panini grill machine. The problems we had in a busy store were threefold:

  1. Panini machine was too slow – five minutes or more and couldn’t handle multiple orders easily
  2. Staff, despite training, didn’t always keep an eye on the panini grill and frequently burnt the toastie leading to annoyed customers and wasted product
  3. Panini machine was expensive and quite often the inside of the panini wasn’t warm despite the outside being toasted.

We came up with an idea to address the various issues of staff training; costs; speed of service and quality by tackling the product from multiple angles using a bit of creativity and lateral thinking.

I saw a new product (at the time) called the Toastabag that is now more widely available; and decided to see if there was a way for us to use it commercially to do our toasties in store (at the time it was purely a consumer product that was very fringe). We solved the above issues seeing some opportunities and by working on all aspects simultaneously to create our toastie product.

How we solved the issues:

  • Product – our toastie was square rather than rectangular – we had a bespoke ciabatta bread baked for us so that it would fit into a normal wide slot toaster in the Toastabag
  • We kept the cost down by being able to use normal toasters and microwaves – saving on an expensive panini grill
  • We increased the speed of service by bringing the time from over five minutes to about three minutes and also avoided having burnt products due to the toaster timer setting
  • We created a real point of difference in the product as well that has lead to strong sales ever since.

Chris Fung, the founder of Crussh, contributed to “Business Gurus”, a new book published by Crimson Publishing this month which describes entrepreneurs’ business heroes.

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