Edward De Bono introduced in 1985 this system in his book of the same name.
The principle of this system is this, the brain thinks in different ways, can be critical, positive, emotional, rational, creative, etc. De Bono identifies these ways of thinking that we usually pass from one to the other unconsciously.
He proposes to make conscious, deliberate and structured these changes of thinking to create ideas and solve problems.
The analogy of the hat is that you can deliberately put it on and take it off. With each hat, you adopt a role of thinking that you can change consciously and sequentially.
The goal is to see the problem(s) from different points of view of the reality without judging. This is like Brainstorming but with rules.
Each one of the six hats has a different color and each color represents a way of thinking, a way of seeing the idea or problem in which you are thinking.
With each hat, you can find aspects that could not have been seen from a traditional analysis. You just have to follow each hat’s guidelines.
The Six Hats system works better in groups, but nothing impedes to work individually with this method.
The session of each hat only lasts a few minutes with the exception of the red hat which is recommended sessions of about 30 sec. But at the end, you (or the moderator) can set the estimated necessary time and it will also depend on how many people participate.
This is the list of colors and descriptions of the hats.
It is the thinking of moderation and control. Dictate to the other hats when it is their turn to enter and set the times. It does not judge, it does not evaluate, it only knows the objectives to achieve with the session, let to the attendees know and takes care that the rules are followed.
If you consider it necessary, you can also return to a previous hat for a new session in order to make the most of the subject.
The Blue Hat enters in between each hat and introduces the next hat and its function. It is an important hat because the session may lose its effectiveness to solve the problem.
This is the hat of objective and neutral thinking, looks for facts, numbers and concrete data.
White Hat introduces the details of the problem, describes impartial statements such as "sales have fallen 20% in the past period."
During this time it is important to remember that it is just about the presentation of the data, not to seek a solution, not to discard information or to search for reasons and guilty.
It is the hat of emotions. The feelings and intuition speak without judging them, without belittling or discarding.
Defines what you would like to, what you love or hate. It also expresses how the attendants feel or how the people affected by the problem feels about it.
Traditionally this hat should be fast, about 30 seconds, in order to be more instinctive and to avoid to think a lot or prejudge.
This is the critic, everything is black and negative, it is about identifying risks and finding out why it can go wrong.
It is important that all this criticism is constructive, it is not about criticizing by the mere fact of criticizing or rejecting proposals for being negative, that way will not work.
With the Black Hat, it’s about looking for weaknesses or problems that may happen. The following are some examples of statements that can be discovered:
"The proposed system is more expensive"
"It is necessary to train all staff"
"The time to do it is too much"
When you are judging the ideas, you have the risk of trying to find an answer at the same time, but this is not the role of the Black Hat. To find a solution will come later, that’s the role of the Green Hat and should not enter here yet.
It is the opposite attitude to the Black Hat. You have to look for everything positive, you have to find the reasons why things can go well.
This is the time to look for the benefits and the value of to take one or another action.
The Yellow Hat is very useful when you are dealing with a problem in which everything seems to be negative.
You should keep in mind that with this hat you have to think in the long term since often good ideas will not give quick results.
This is the hat that seeks creativity. The efforts are concentrated on finding new possibilities.
Phrases like "And if we do ..." or "Maybe we combined these ideas could ..."
Let the possible solutions flow, look for different points of view.
If you are coming short of ideas you may have more than one session of this hat.
The Seventh Hat.
I just discovered this one when I was doing some research to write this article. Edward De Bono does not mention it and there is no clear information about its origin, but the School of Thinking blog mentions it and bring a viewpoint that does not appear in the original six hats.
This is the Hat of wisdom that gives the experience. It is about answering questions such as "what has happened before?" What has been done? Which have been the results? What can be applied to what has been done before?
It is clear that people with more experience have much to contribute here.
You may want to include it in your session of the Six Thinking Hats, just be careful of giving it as much weight as any other of the other hats. Sometimes the experience can be a brake for new ideas.
The following video provides another overview of the Six Thinking Hats and you may like to watch it as a complement to this post.
This has been the third of the methods to generate ideas that I mention in this other post about The best way to have a good idea.
The other two methods are Brainstorming and Mind Mapping. Do you know any other system to generate ideas? How did it work for you? I encourage you to leave your comments below this text. Or if you wish, you can also go to my contact page to get in touch directly.
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