The goal of the Six Thinking Hats is to see the problems from different points of view in a structured way to find creative solutions. It’s like brainstorming but with rules.
Edward De Bono introduced this system in 1985 in his book of the same name.
The principle of this system is based on the idea that the brain thinks in different ways, it can be critical, positive, emotional, rational, creative, etc. De Bono identifies these ways of thinking we usually pass from one to the other unconsciously.
He proposes to make conscious, intentional, 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.
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 the traditional analysis. You just have to follow each hat’s guidelines.
The Six Hats system works better in a group of people, but nothing impedes you 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.
In the end, you (or the moderator) can set the estimated time to work on each thinking hat, and it will also depend on the number of people participating.
This is the list of Hats colors and thinking descriptions.
It is the thinking of moderation and control. Direct to the other hats when 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 the attendees know, and make sure rules are followed.
If Blue Hat considers it necessary, it can make a hat to return for a new session to get the best for the session.
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 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 the presentation of the data, not to seek a solution, not to discard information, nor to search for reasons or guilty.
It is the hat of emotions. The feelings and intuition speak without judging them, without belittling or discarding.
Everybody defines what they would like to do, what they would love or hate. It also expresses how the attendants feel or how the people are affected by the problem and feel about it.
Traditionally, this hat should be fast, about 30 seconds, to be more instinctive and to avoid thinking a lot or prejudge.
This is the critic hat, everything is black and negative, it is about identifying risks and finding out why things can go wrong.
All this judgment must be constructive, it is not about criticizing by the mere fact of criticizing or rejecting proposals for being negative. That is not the way the Blak Hat works.
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. Black Hat is not for trying to find answers. Finding a solution will come later, that’s the role of the Green Hat, and is not time to let it enter here yet.
This 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 brings a viewpoint that does not appear in the original six hats.
This is the Hat of wisdom, It is 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 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 down below. Or, if you wish, you can also go to my contact page to send me a direct message.
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When the time comes and you need a designer, send me a message. I will be glad to assist.
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