Six Thinking Hats
(de Bono)

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Exploring different perspectives. Explanation of Six Thinking Hats of Edward de Bono.

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Six Thinking Hats - De BonoThe Six Thinking Hats technique of Edward de Bono is a model that can be used for exploring different perspectives towards a complex situation or challenge. Seeing things in various ways is often a good idea in strategy formation or complex decision-making processes.


Purposes of 6 Thinking Hats

  • Simplify thinking by allowing one to deal with one thing at a time. De Bono identified six styles of thinking and assigned a color to each one. One thinking style is not inherently better than another; it's just a different way of looking at something.
  • Allow switching in thinking from one style to another. He likened switching to putting on and taking off a hat. The combination of colors and hats provides an idiom that instructs how to think without being offensive. By turning thinking into role-playing with simple rules, it does not threaten a person's ego or personality.

The Six Thinking Hats Colors

Each of the Hats is named for a color that is mnemonically descriptive of the perspective one adopts when wearing the particular hat. For example the devil's advocacy is what one engages in when wearing the Black Thinking Hat.

  • White Hat (think of a sheet of paper): FACTS and FIGURES; neutral and objective view; focus on information available, what info is needed, how it might be obtained.

  • Red Hat (think of fire, warmth): EMOTIONS, FEELINGS, intuition, hunches; focus on quickly expressing without explanation nor justification required.

  • Black Hat (think of a stern judge wearing black robe): LOGICAL NEGATIVE support; focus on pessimism, why something is wrong, being judgmental and critical.

  • Yellow Hat (think of sunshine): LOGICAL POSITIVE support; focus on optimism, benefits, what's good, being constructive.

  • Green Hat (think of growing plants): CREATIVE and LATERAL thinking; focus on change, innovation, invention; new ideas, possibilities, concepts, perceptions, paradigms.

  • Blue Hat (think of the sky, cool): CONTROL of THINKING PROCESS; focus on thinking about thinking, overview; being cool and in control of the overall process and use of other hats.

De Bono's hats are indicative of both emotional states as well as frames of mind (i.e., perspective from which an issue is viewed). He noted: "Emotions are an essential part of our thinking ability and not just something extra that mucks up our thinking" (1985, p27). One thinking style (or hat) is not inherently "better" than another. A full, balanced team recognizes the need for all hats in order for the team to consider all aspects of whatever issues they are facing.


When to Use the Six Thinking Hats. Applications

  • Individual use: Consciously using one hat or another for every thinking moment is overkill. 6TH is for occasional usage when a person may want to sort out one's thoughts by putting on a particular hat. To handle a more difficult or complex issue, a formal structured sequence would be laid out beforehand.
  • Group use: De Bono calls the act of deliberately having everyone wear the same hat at the same time Parallel Thinking. Topics are explored together factually and emotionally. It is a vast improvement over traditional adversarial thinking where people take sides and argue back and forth hoping that some useful outcome will emerge.
  • Note that 6TH is not a labeling exercise. Example: "He is in Accounting and is a Black Hat thinker." or "Those Marketing guys only think with the Yellow Hat on." The hats are categories of thinking behavior and not of people themselves.
  • Good thinkers are comfortable wearing all six hats and learn to easily switch them. Parallel Thinking calls for everyone to contribute under each hat.

Main Benefits of Six Thinking Hats. Advantages

  1. Allows one to say things without risk. Very strong in preventing the Spiral of Silence.
  2. Create awareness that there are multiple perspectives on the issue at hand
  3. Provides a convenient mechanism for 'switching gears', thinking in deliberate different ways
  4. Set rules for the game of thinking
  5. Temporarily focus thinking on one aspect
  6. Helps individuals expand their thinking capacity by adopting a perspective that is not necessarily their own
  7. Leads to more creative thinking through unhampered dialogue that builds on each other's contributions
  8. Improves communication, since egos are not threatened and people are never personally attacked
  9. Improves decision making, because attention is given to all aspects of a problem/opportunity (pros, cons, gains, risks, etc.)

Typical Steps in a Six Thinking Hats Workshop. Process

The Hats may be used in many different sequences depending on the nature of the issue. But here is a typical agenda for a situation where a problem has just surfaced and a fix is needed within the next half hour. The team leader will facilitate by wearing the Blue Hat and lead the team of 5 workers through the thinking process.

  1. Blue Hat (2 mins): State purpose of the meeting and expected outcome. Show hat sequence and time limits to be used.
  2. White Hat (10 mins): Present the facts of the problem.
  3. Green Hat (3 mins): Generate ideas on possible solutions.
  4. Red Hat (10 secs): Using intuition, vote with hands on the most practical solution from the list.
  5. Yellow Hat (3 mins): Identify the benefits of the solution picked.
  6. Black Hat (3 mins): List the drawbacks and risks.
  7. Red Hat (10 secs): Get everybody's "Go/ No Go" gut feeling.
  8. Green Hat (3 mins): Identify means to overcome concerns raised under the Black Hat.
  9. Blue Hat (5 mins): Summarize and create an action plan. Adjourn the meeting.


Six Thinking Hats Forum (31 topics) Help
  Taking Advantage of Conflicts in Group Decision Making  - In past research it was often argued that group decision making (GDM)...      
  Business Conflict Resolution  - Under an earlier forum topic entitled "Resolving a Business Argument", there was a great discussion using Six Thinking Hats. This posting is a more advanced version and describes how Stephen C...      
  Challenging Plans or Ideas: The Ritual Dissent Approach  - When facilitating strategic planning sessions, I often will use a Cognitive-Edge Inc. workshop method called: 'Ritual Dissent'.
It is designed to test and enhance proposals, ideas, plans through cha...
     
  Distorted Western Adversarial Thinking  - A colleague recently shared a story that Edward De Bono told him at a lunch meeting. Apparently Edward was approached by a lawyer who asked: "How can I use Six Thinking Hats to argue and win my case in court?"
Edward's reply was: "You can't. Six T...
     
  Six Thinking Hats for Instructional Design  - UPSIDE Learning has provided an interesting example of applying the six thinking hats for instructional design (link). The authors have chosen the following hat sequence: White, Black,...      
  Six Thinking Hats Helps Speedo Create New Record-breaking Swimsuit  - In 2009, Speedo’s research team began to brainstorm innovative ways to help swimmers go faster. They tried the Six Thinking Hats method of brainstorming, a green hat for creative ways to attack a problem, a black one to look at the feasibility of tho...      
  Instilling Constructive Participation: 15-minute Soliloquy  - Another complementary possibility (besides the Six Thinking Hats) to instill constructive participation is to allow each member of the group on separate days to lead the discussion in the form of a fifteen minute soliloquy about a related subj...      
  Current Status of Six Thinking Hats? Hot News  - On Friday, May 18, 2012, Edward De Bono was the keynote speaker at the FinanceMalta annual conference.
"Thinking skills expert Edward De Bono shared anecdotes and some jokes to demonstrate the effectiveness of parallel thinking and humour to pr...
     
  Six Hats Certification  - I live in Sweden and work with process management. I have already worked with the "Six Thinking Hats" model which I believe is fantastic.
Now I would like to learn the method even deeper and also get a certification. What types of certification...
     
  Six Thinking Hats for Software Testing at Google  - Our testing is only as good as our thinking--and all too often we are hampered by limiting ideas, poor communication, and pre-set roles and responsibilities. Based on the work of Edward de Bono, the Six Thinking Hats for software testers have helped ...      
  Seventh Thinking Hat: Grey for Wisdom  - Educator Michael Hewitt-Gleeson has suggested to add a 7th thinking hat: the Grey Hat for Wisdom.
Why the colour grey? Grey-haired seniors due to their time on earth gather a lot of wisdom, a combination of knowledge and experience. The brain is...
     
  Systematic, Deliberate Thinking is not Easy to Do  - Your friend Joe calls you to say a recruiter from another company has unexpectedly called and presented him with a very attractive offer to head up a new department. He almost said yes right away, but he replied "Let me think this over and I'll get b...      
  Can Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Improve Thinking?  - Suggestions have been made to use psychological instruments such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as an aid in resolving business arguments      
  Conditions for 6 Thinking Hats. Assumptions  - Having just completed the De Bono 6 hats course, I can honestly say it is a good tool if administered, not only in a mature organizational enviroment, but crucially, an environment where there is trust amongst colleague as well as trust between manag...      
  Six Thinking Hats is Great for Exploring All Points of View  - I think that the six thinking hats is a good method to make sense and authorize all the thinking of the peoples in meeting. Each answer is always a good answer and gives value for everyone.
Also it is a formidable way of progress for all, becaus...
     
  Resolving a Business Argument  - We've all been in arguments, such as when one person wants to proceed with something, but the other wants to stop.
A resolution requires empathic listening, the ability to put yourself in the "other person's shoes" and view an issue from the oth...
     
  Six Hats Great for Teaching at University  - I am using a modified version of the 6 thinking hats when teaching at the university. And it works very well. The students are not afraid of saying things because they are just playing a role......      
  Wearing the Blue Hat  - One 'rule' no-one has mentioned: when using the six thinking hats for a group thinking session or meeting - while there maybe one person designated as the facilitator and that person would be expected to wear the blue hat at all times in or...      
  Everybody Should Wear More Than 1 Hat  - I think every individual on the discussion could take a different role at a time (per session). Or maybe should. But the point is they should never use only one hat. If they use only one hat, then the purpose of this method will never met....      
  Switching Hats by Top Managers  - People at the top of the organisation on most occasions wear just one of these hats. It would be interesting to see more top level people switching around hats. By doing so they may see a broader perspective of the opportunities and challenges that i...      

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