The 6 Thinking Hats

by | Apr 11, 2017 | Blog Posts | 0 comments

Six Thinking Hats is a system designed by Edward de Bono which describes a tool for group and individual thinking involving six colored hats.

The basis of the method is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be deliberately challenged allowing one to develop tactics for thinking about particular issues.

Teams will benefit from working with the 6 Thinking Hats in the following ways:

• Maximize productive collaboration and minimize counterproductive interaction/behaviour;
• Consider issues, problems, decisions, and opportunities systematically;
• Use Parallel Thinking as a group or team to generate more, better ideas and solutions;
• Make meetings much shorter and more productive;
• Reduce conflict among team members or meeting participants;
• Stimulate innovation by generating more and better ideas quickly;
• Create dynamic, results oriented meetings that make people want to participate;
• Go beyond the obvious to discover effective alternate solutions;
• Spot opportunities where others see only problems;
• Think clearly and objectively;
• View problems from new and unusual angles;
• Make thorough evaluations;
• See all sides of a situation;
• Keep egos and “turf protection” in check;
• Achieve significant and meaningful results in a less time.

Six distinct directions are identified and assigned a color. The six directions are:

1. Blue – Managing;
2. White – Information;
3. Red – Emotions;
4. Black – Discernment;
5. Yellow – Optimistic Response;
6. Green Creativity.

Coloured hats are used as metaphors for each direction. Switching to a direction is symbolised by either, physically or metaphorically putting on a coloured hat.

THE WHITE HAT: The white hat asks for the facts and figures to be put forward in a neutral and objective way. The white hat thinking person will request information and should be focusing on the questions in order to obtain information or to fill in information gaps.

THE RED HAT: Red hat thinking is all about emotions and feelings and non-rational aspects of thinking. No logical explanation has to be given for the feeling. The Red hat covers two broad types of feelings. Firstly, there are the ordinary emotions as we know them, ranging from the strong emotions such as fear and dislike to more subtle ones such as suspicion. Secondly, there are the complex judgements that go into such types of feelings as hunch, intuition, sense, taste, aesthetic feeling and other not visibly justified types of feelings

THE BLACK HAT: The black hat thinker is always logical. Black hat thinking is negative but it is not emotional. Black hat thinking does look on the “dark side” or “black side” of things, but this is always a logical blackness.

With the red hat no reasons has to be given for a negative feeling. With the black hat logical and relevant reasons must always be given. Black hat thinking must be truthful, but it does not have to be fair. Black hat thinking presents the logical-negative: why something will not work. The black hat thinker will present the gloomy and negative side, why it can’t be done.

YELLOW HAT: Yellow hat thinking is positive and constructive. The yellow colour symbolizes sunshine, brightness and optimism. Yellow hat thinking is concerned with positive assessment just as the black hat thinking is concerned with negative assessment.

Yellow hat thinking covers a positive spectrum ranging from the logical, the practical, the dreams, the visions and hopes of the yellow hat thinker. Positive thinking is a mixture of curiosity, pleasure, greed and a desire to make things happen.

GREEN HAT: Green hat thinking is for creative thinking. The green hat indicates creativity and new ideas. It keeps the mind open to ALL ideas. Don’t belittle any ideas. This hat is all about creative, weird and wacky ideas. Remember extreme ideas may trigger a more realistic idea that wouldn’t have been thought of otherwise.

BLUE HAT: The blue hat thinker is concerned with control and the organization of the thinking process. Wearing the blue hat we are no longer thinking about the subject, instead, we are thinking about the thinking needed to explore that subject. Blue also suggests detachment and being cool and in control.

From time to time the blue hat thinker gives an overview of what has been happening and what has been achieved.

Modus Operandi

De Bono believed that the key to a successful use of the Six Thinking Hats methodology was the deliberate focusing of the discussion on a particular approach as needed during the meeting or collaboration session. For instance, a meeting may be called to review a particular problem and to develop a solution for the problem. The Six Thinking Hats method could then be used in a sequence to first explore the problem, then develop a set of solutions, and to finally choose a solution through critical examination of the solution set.

The meeting may start with everyone assuming the blue hat to discuss how the meeting will be conducted and to develop the goals and objectives. The discussion may then move to red hat thinking in order to collect opinions and reactions to the problem. This phase may also be used to develop constraints for the actual solution such as who will be affected by the problem and/or solutions. Next the discussion may move to the (yellow then) green hat in order to generate ideas and possible solutions. Next the discussion may move between white hat thinking as part of developing information and black hat thinking to develop criticisms of the solution set.

Because everyone is focused on a particular approach at any one time, the group tends to be more collaborative than if one person is reacting emotionally (Red hat) while another person is trying to be objective (White hat) and still another person is being critical of the points which emerge from the discussion (Black hat). The hats aid individuals in addressing problems from a variety of angles, and focus individuals on deficiencies in the way that they approach problem solving.

For more information on how to apply the six thinking hats, book the Knowledge to Motion Problem Solving and Decision Making course.