Have you ever needed to think deeply about a particular topic and found your thoughts jumping from the positive to the negative, causing difficulty and indecision? Similarly, you may have been at a meeting or in a discussion where everyone seemed to have a lot to say, but without direction, heated arguments may have developed and no real conclusions could be drawn up. Edward de Bono first proposed his concept of Six Thinking Hats in his 1985 book by the same name. These can provide you and your team with an effective method to direct a conversation, shorten meeting times, or focus thoughts in relation to a particular topic, query or challenge. This is particularly helpful when attempting to problem-solve, come up with creative ideas, innovative developments or when critically analysing a situation.
This method allows you to focus your mind or your meeting on just one aspect of a topic at any given point, putting forward all arguments from one angle, then another; until all angles have been covered in as much depth as possible, without jumping between angles. When working in a team, asking everyone to metaphorically put on the same hat allows all participants at the meeting to discuss in agreement rather than in conflict, creating a quicker assessment of all sides to the topic at hand.
The white hat is the factual hat
This means that when mentally putting this hat on, you will be thinking about the unbiased reality of a situation, without bringing emotions or arguments into the conversation.
The yellow hat is the positive hat
When mentally putting on this hat, your focus should be drawn to the beneficial aspects of a particular situation or topic and the value that these hold.
The black hat is the risk hat
Here your thoughts should be drawn to the flip side of the previous hat’s induced thoughts, and you will be thinking about everything that could possibly go wrong in a situation, or all the negative aspects of the topic being analysed.
The red hat is the emotional hat
This hat figuratively allows you to focus on your gut by drawing your attention to your intuition and feelings, allocating time for the expression of both positive and negative emotions including fear and excitement.
The green hat is the creative hat
When thinking with this hat, allowing only room for creative thoughts and conversations, without the attachment of risk or hope, you increase your ability to think ‘out of the box’. Ideas can then be critically analysed afterwards, with some discarded, but some resulting in exceptional solutions or innovations.
The blue hat is the thought process hat
This is the hat that manages the whole thought process. Whether you are carrying out this process alone or as a group, it is the hat you should put on before you start your critical thinking or problem solving and the last hat you put on again to bring all the thinking together, close the process, come to conclusions and make decisions.
The Six Thinking Hats are covered in our Creativity and Problem Solving professional workshops, providing participants with easier ways of thinking critically and creatively.