Six Thinking Hats

The Six Thinking Hats is a role-playing model presented by Edward de Bono. It serves as a team-based problem solving and brainstorming technique that can explore problems and solutions and uncover ideas and options that a homogeneously thinking group might otherwise overlook. It is a simple and effective parallel thinking process that helps teams to produce amazing results. It is a powerful toolset, which, once learned, can be applied immediately.

Evidence shows that the best decisions are made when we have mechanisms to counteract our natural blind spots. It means learning to think in ways that may feel uncomfortable or unnatural. The key to the effective use of this leadership tool is to Invite people into the discussion who represent a cross-section of these intuitive ways of thinking.  In addition to parallel thinking, it encourages full-spectrum thinking and separates ego from performance. The technique encourages a group to approach the issue at hand from all possible angles.

White Facts The White Hat focuses on facts and logic.
Yellow Positivity The Yellow Hat is the optimistic hat used to look for positive outcomes
Black Negativity The Black Hat is the hat of logic and critical judgment. It’s called the devil’s advocate hat.
Red Emotions The Red Hat signifies feelings, hunches, and intuition. Using this hat, you can express emotions and feelings, share fears, likes, dislikes, love, and hate.
Green Creativity The Green Hat focuses on creativity, possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas.
Blue Control The Blue Hat is used to manage the thinking process. It is the hat of control.

We are all capable of wearing all the above six hats. In other words, we are capable of thinking in all six ways. Unfortunately, most of us are habituated to wear one or two hats which we are comfortable wearing all the time. You may assign a hat to the entire group or a different hat to each person and then rotate the hats to encourage more ideas. Some claim better results from insisting that everyone wear the same color hat at the same time because it ensures everyone is looking in the same direction at the same time.

How to Use the Hats?

Green Hat:

  • It is used to think about creative alternatives we haven’t considered yet.
  • To identify the missing elements.
  • To express new concepts and new perceptions.

Red Hat:

  • It is used to check in on everyone’s instincts.
  • To integrate emotions into the thinking process.
  • To think about how others may react emotionally to a decision.

Blue Hat: 

  • To facilitate the meeting and keep the team on track.
  • To decide which types of thinking hats are needed at a specific time and directs people to wear a certain hat.
  • It is used to wrap up the session.
  • To synthesize the viewpoints into a collective decision or clear “next steps.”

Black Hat:

  • To look at things with a critical eye.
  • To identify the risks and potential pitfalls.
  • To determine why something may not work.
  • To consider and make the assumptions that are being made explicit.
  • Help decrease the chances of making poor decisions.

Yellow Hat: 

  • To look for positive outcomes.
  • To identify opportunities or benefits that could arise from your proposed course or courses of action.
  • To keep the team spirits up during stressful times.
  • To work with Black Hat thinkers and develop a project plan.

White Hat: 

  • To examine the data related to the problem and use it as a key input in the decision-making process.
  • To find the data which may support the solutions.

 Advantages of using Six Thinking Hats

  • Adds clear structure to the brainstorming or feedback process.
  • Productive and clear thinking processes.
  • Reduces conflict within a team.
  • Avoids potential future threats to the deliverables.
  • Inspires creative thinking.
  • Increases efficiency and effectiveness of thinking methods.
  • An extremely useful way to debate an issue, solve a problem or arrive at an important decision.

Many researchers have concluded that effective use of the six thinking hats approach has led to more effective meetings, building stronger project teams, and an overall sound approach to making decisions.

Call To Action: 

If you do not want to immediately embark on the journey of using Six Thinking Hats, then I would recommend you to feel the taste of it by using just one important hat. During your next team meeting, nominate one of the team members as a “Black Hat” aka the “Devil’s Advocate Hat” and ask him to play the role. The nominated employee should provide a critical viewpoint on the proposed idea or situation. I am sure it will help your team by decreasing the chances of making poor decisions. It helps encourage critical thinking and challenge the proposed ideas from multiple stakeholders’ points of view.

It is super important to empower employees to think critically and bravely voice their opinion. That is why as leaders, we need to create and foster a culture of bravery.  If you want to achieve better business decisions, then start using the Six Thinking Hats tool in your teams and organization.

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