Six Thinking Hats: Better ideas and decisions
Do you or your team struggle to find a solution? Are the same ideas being recycled? Do you feel that your approach to decisions might need some fresh thoughts?
The Six Thinking Hats is a method for effective and out of the box thinking. This technique is meaningful for team meetings, idea generation, problem solving and decision making. Whether it is finding a new strategic approach, refining your marketing, or creating new product designs: Six Thinking Hats enables a systematic thinking for better ideas and decisions.
Developed by Edward de Bono, the Six Thinking Hats is a parallel thinking process which looks at an issue from different angles. Each imaginary hat represents a certain way of thinking. The color of the hat stands for one specific way of thinking. The method is ideal in a group setting, but can be also applied by individuals. To conduct the method, it is important that only one imaginary hat is worn at a time.
Colors representing thinking styles
White hat (information & facts): Wearing this hat, you collect information, data and facts concerning the issue that you want to solve. Your own opinions or feelings have to be excluded. Take only objective information into account.
Yellow hat (positive thinking): You focus on benefits and opportunities. You look at best-case scenarios. A overall positive and optimistic attitude is key for wearing the yellow hat.
Black hat (cautious & critical thinking): You’re now observing opposite from the yellow hat. You think critically and take a pessimistic view. You ask for worst case scenarios and the worst possible outcome.
Red hat (emotions): Tapping into your feelings. When wearing this hat, you try to feel the emotional reaction people will have of your decision or product. Try to follow your gut feeling, focusing on intuition and emotion like fears, dislikes, love, and hatred.
Green hat (creativity): Use your creativity and imagination to solve problems. Brainstorm, dream and generate new ideas. Don’t be satisfied with the first idea, try to produce more alternatives and really think outside the box.
Blue hat (managing & organizing): Usually the facilitator and session leader wears this hat. The blue hat is responsible for organizing the whole process and to structure it. He gives instructions about the use of other hats and the sequence. The blue hat also is the first and last hat to use. He opens the session and wraps it up.
Guidelines for the Six Thinking Hats
There are some guidelines to ensure a structured thinking session:
- The session leader (blue hat) facilitates the meeting to make sure everyone stays focused.
- When a hat is selected, teams must only look at the problem in that way and think only in this particular style. The session leader is responsible for making sure that the team sticks to each way of thinking.
- Each hat period should be kept general and rather short. Try to stick to the defined time frame to keep it efficient.
Sequences of hats
The sequence of hats can be determined and fixed before the sessions starts or with a more flexible approach adjusted throughout the session:
- Use any hat as often as useful.
- You can wear a hat once and alone or as part of a sequence with more hats.
- You don’t have to use every hat in a session.
Depending on the goal and issue you can mix and match different hats. Some examples:
- If you are looking for new ideas or products, you could use a sequence of blue – green – red – blue. The green hat would use creativity to develop new ideas. After that, the red hat thinks about what feelings these ideas spark.
- For feedback you could use blue – yellow – black – green – blue. The yellow hat is used to be optimistic and give positive feedback. After that the black hat focuses on problems and applies critical judgment. Then use the green hat to think about solving the problem and to come up with solutions.
Benefits of the Six Thinking Hats
The method enables participants to think deeply and without threatening the ego. It is not about opinions, but about exploration and innovation. The technique also supports collaboration and togetherness. It saves time and enables better decision making.