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Wine and the Thinking Hat (Or Six of them…)

All opinions are valid, but not all opinions are correct, particularly if they’re based on incomplete thought.

Lately, this is what I’ve been thinking about as our national media de-camps into political ideology which itself mirrors our politics.  We’re in a period of time in which demagoguery has dangerously replaced the usual rhetoric.

It defies my comprehension how our political landscape has devolved to the point where winners and losers are assigned based on who gave what in the national debt negotiations.  The net result is nobody wins and everybody loses, especially tax-paying Americans who have to suffer the fools that are our elected officials.  Even more egregious, I fear we’re inured to this finger-pointing blame game as a new reality.

A respite for most people, the wine world isn’t immune to bickering partisanship.  Consider:  Critics.  Points scoring.  Parker. Biodynamics. Corporate wine. New World vs. Old World. Technology. Oaked Chardonnay. The three-tier system…


The wine world is no better than the national political conversation when it comes to taking sides and discarding rationale thought.  On wine issues, opinion acts as an article of faith, facts be damned.

But, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Recently, this site was named the most influential wine blog out of 3,000 drinks-related blogs. In spite of this, I don’t carry a burden of responsibility to use that supposed influence in any particular way.  However, if I could do one thing in creating influence (of the outwardly positive sort) it would be this: Urge all wine enthusiasts engaged in wine conversation online or offline to be empathetic and look at a situation and an opinion (that may be counter to your own) from 360 degrees.  Doing so doesn’t always lead to answers, but it does lead to pragmatic enlightenment.

And, we need more enlightened people (to say nothing of pragmatism).  Somewhere along the road of “social” associating itself with “media,” people, regular people, have subsumed the bad habits of traditional media and our elected officials and forgotten the most fundamental rules of the human condition:  “Treat others as you would have them treat you” and “Before judging a man, walk a mile in his shoes.”

Even worse, for all of the benefit that interactivity and social media has wrought for “conversation” and “dialogue” and the exchange of ideas, a whole lot of nothing has ever reached concurrence.


Can it be that social media might be good for citizen uprisings with attendant violence, but poor for aligned progress?  Does ease of communication inspire our more savage instincts? God, the early returns aren’t great.  Yet, what’s the point of the exchange of ideas and information if it’s not to come to a place of mutual understanding?

Instead, too often it seems, we’re all stuck in the mud and Exhibit A would be the recent online wine points score debate that is the same debate that has been going on in the same material fashion for the last decade.  Yawn.  Wake me when somebody comes up with something better.  Then, there’s a real conversation to be had.

While my own naïve idealism isn’t enough to create a ripple in the pond, there are frameworks of change that can be adopted, even if incrementally.

I recently began exploring a paradigm for critical thinking called the “Six Thinking Hats” created by Edward de Bono.

Six Thinking Hats is as simple as it is beautiful and it offsets the fact that as we’ve perverted the Socratic method of thinking by combining its opposing viewpoint debate with feelings and emotions, losing dimensional thinking that leads to logical conclusions.

The Six Thinking Hats seeks to provide a holistic method of analyzing a situation or a problem.  Where our current thought process is typically duotone, the Six Thinking Hats is a full color picture.


Think of a recent meeting at work. You were discussing a topic of some importance or consequence in outcome.  Chances are good it was a mud puddle of confusion amongst varying viewpoints that went in circles for an hour before you adjourned with a weak-kneed action item.  Or worse, interpersonal dynamics had the outcome yielding to the dominant ego in the room.

It’s hardly a recipe for success.  And, it’s repeated millions of times daily in the exchange of information on a subject.

Yet, the Six Thinking Hats is not about who is right or who is wrong, it’s about the way forward.  Instead of rewarding ego, the Six Thinking Hats rewards profundity of well-rounded thought – it requires an individual to look at all sides of an issue, moving away from habitual thinking styles that can run narrow and linear.

Represented by the metaphor of six differently colored hats, each hat represents a different aspect of thinking that can (and should) be used in the exchange of ideas to come to an essential truth.  In a group setting, a group would each symbolically assume the role of one hat color at a time to examine an issue to agreement.

The hats are:

White hat:  Facts and information.  With this hat, the focus is on what is known and what is available to be known.

Red hat:  Emotion, judgments, intuition.  Gut reactions.  With this hat, the focus is on instincts.

Black hat: Caution, faults, problems, issues.  This hat focuses on why something might not work.

Yellow hat:  Optimism, positivity, benefits and constructive.  This hat focuses on the value and benefit of a decision.

Green hat:  Creative, out-of-the-box and crazy alternatives.  This hat focuses on innovative ideas.

Blue hat: Guiding, facilitating and managing the process.  This hat acts as a calibrator for thinking about thinking.

As you can see, most people tend to skew towards one or two hats, but not all of the hats in totality.  However, what a difference a conversation might be if a group of people were committed to looking at a subject with all six hats.

Perhaps Biodynamics wouldn’t be considered voodoo to a percentage of the population.  Parker wouldn’t be a bogeyman.  Corporate wine wouldn’t be a scourge… A level of common ground could be found in conversation amongst differing viewpoints…

I don’t presume that everybody is going to download the PDF linked below and really absorb the notion of the Six Thinking Hats, particularly in the realm of wine issues, but in the future I will be creating a thinking hat outline for topical issues that seem to be particularly rancorous in the online wine discussion – if for no other reason than to save us from ourselves on the next go around of debate about the 100-point system.

As a final thought, it should be noted that Six Hats Thinking is taught to pre-school and kindergarten students as a thinking tool-set for their pliable minds.  Perhaps the kindergartener in all of us that plinks on the keyboard should pay heed to what four and five year olds can comprehend. 

Six Thinking Hats download


Posted in, Good Grape Daily: Pomace & Lees. Permalink | Comments (9) |


On 08/18, Josh wrote:

BioD isn’t voodoo, its more like Scientology. And even when I wear my fuschia colored thetan counting hat, things still look bleak for BioD.

Isn’t it better to simply let people have a space to argue and call it a day? Plenty of value there. You’ve grown weary of the arguments, sure. For folks newer to the scene, its a chance to really sink their teeth into a wine related issue.

Don’t go getting all grizzled ink stained wretch on us!

On 08/19, Jeff wrote:

Thanks for commenting, Josh.

Is it better to let people have space to argue and call it a day?  Perhaps.  Even better if people come to some level of understanding with each other through rationale thought.

Most people argue with the black and red hat—the emotional negative. 

It’s not only a perilous way to view things, it’s also incomplete.

I’m not trying to be a preachy ink-stained wretch, though admittedly, it could be viewed as that, but I am mildly distressed at various camps that I see forming in the wine world.  At the best it’s fractious, at the worst it’s dangerous.


On 08/19, Thomas Pellechia wrote:


Fools believe that questions come ready-made with absolute answers. They get that way generally because critical thinking and unemotional debate need to be built on an educational foundation, and in this world we don’t educate; instead, we cut budgets for it and raise tuition to make it less available.
At some point, people come to the conclusion that the only way to be heard when you know little is to scream the loudest.

Facts? What are those?

On 08/19, Phil wrote:

Interesting Jeff, I think the problem, if you wanted to apply this to decision making processes (which I know isn’t the main point of the post) is that people won’t really be good at assuming hats that aren’t natural to them.  It is an interesting argument that small decision making groups should actively seek to have at least one of each type of hat involved.

It’s also interesting the discourse online almost always veers toward the red hat. Something about facelessness, anonymity, and the medium (“conversations” really don’t happen online the way they do offline, along with the long tail function of the Internet) combine to create a terrible atmosphere in many cases. 

Here’s an interesting thought experiment for you: how do you design an online discourse system that minimizes the red hat and maximizes the white, blue, and yellow hats (the least seen ones in my opinion)?

On 08/19, Josh wrote:


I’m not trying to be completely flip, but isn’t dangerous good? It all depends on who is defining dangerous.

I like what the Twitter guys said about their service: if we told people the way they were supposed to use our service, say for reporting traffic accidents or some other noteworthy event, then no one would ever use it. To get the 1% of gold you have to allow people to do what comes naturally, which is spew narcissistic nonsense. That’s what grabs them and keeps them engaged. Then when something momentous occurs, they go to the service without a second thought. It has become a part of their lives.

Twitter = internet = online community to my mind. We must tolerate the dross to get the gold.

On 08/19, Phil wrote:

Also, to put on a blue hat about the points debate, when you say “something better”, better for who?  Any change to a system has winners and losers, I assume we are stipulating, “better for the consumer”?

If that’s so, then I’ll put on my black hat and note that the current system doesn’t acknowledge the systematic error of having human beings rate wine on a scale.  My white hat tells me that any statistical undertaking must acknowledge error, if you are going to tell me that one wine is 90 points and another is 89, you need to tell me what the error is to give me the complete picture.

So I’ll put on my green hat and suggest that each reviewer should endeavor to discover the amount of error in their reviews by tasting the same wine in different conditions at different times (but not too far apart to eliminate aging issues).  Scores should then be ranges rather than exact numbers (88-92 or whatever the error band is).

My yellow hat is very happy about this, because we’ve eliminated the dreaded 89/90 problem and given consumers a more accurate view of each wine while still giving them a scale to compare with.

My red hat is pleased because this seems much more fair.

But now we come to the problem:

Uh-oh, my black hat is back and my blue hat insists we have to let him speak.  Reviewers will never do this because they are in a prisoner’s dilemma: acknowledging your error while others do not hurts your reputation.

So we’ll keep having this discussion, and would even if we implemented my suggestion because sometimes people just fundamentally disagree.  My white hat and your white hat may be made of a different cloth or even completely different types of hats and so on.

On 08/19, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

“...sometimes people just fundamentally disagree.”

True, Phil, but if disagreement is based solely on either opinion or on protecting one’s domain, what is the value of the argument, with or without a nicely colored hat?

Don’t know about Jeff, but his post made me think about the obvious gap between rational thought and opinion that manages to be aired “ad nauseam” on so many wine-related subjects.

Josh says that with open forums, “we must tolerate the dross.”

Assuming that by “dross” Josh refers strictly to the waste side of it (not all dross is waste), I ask why?

What value is there from consuming irrationality?

On 08/19, Jeff wrote:

Thanks for the comments, guys.

Thomas—glad you’re here despite whatever bugs you may be experiencing.  Thanks.

Josh - I want to be careful not to turn this into my opinion as the post is more of a general commentary about a simple tool for more complete thinking.  That said, I can tolerate panning for proverbial gold online it’s really the redundancy of the conversation that is tedious.  The same thing over and over with people having emotionally laden opinions that don’t take other viewpoints into account, even if perfectly reasonable.  How to progress to solutions if we’re so adamant in emotional opinions?  The points score debate typifies that weariness for me.

Phil—thanks for commenting.  With your MBA, I think holistic thought has been a part of your education.  I’m not surprised at your thoughtful comments.

You’re right in that alignment may never come, but I suppose that so long as people agree to disagree that’s okay.  It’s more of the issue of people having ingrained opinions that aren’t well-considered that chaps me.

Going back to your first query, I’ve long considered assembling a “kitchen cabinet” of advisors that would comment on posts here consistently (Thomas would be Chairperson) playing a role from their POV to flesh out a topic.  It’s something I still want to do and in that i think a topic could be fleshed out more fully as an influencing piece that represents multiple dimensions of an issue. 

And, as I mentioned, I’m contemplating doing one-page analyst style topic dissections based on the Six Thinking Hats style.


On 08/19, Thomas Pellechia wrote:


The bugs seem to have worked themselves out—today.

Chairperson? I’m a man… wink


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