6 Hats

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Knowledge Solutions

June 2009 | 50

Wearing Six Thinking Hats
By Olivier Serrat Introduction
The difference between poor and effective teams lies not so much in their collective mental equipment but in how well they use their abilities to think together. The Six Thinking Hats technique helps actualize the thinking potential of teams.
Routinely, many people think from analytical, critical,logical perspectives, and rarely view the world from emotional, intuitive, creative, or even purposely negative viewpoints. As a result, their arguments do not make leaps of imagination, they underestimate resistance to change, or they fail to draw contingency plans. Lateral thinking is reasoning that offers new ways of looking at problems—coming at them from the side rather than from thefront—to foster change, creativity, and innovation. One tool of lateral thinking, the Six Thinking Hats technique, was devised by de Bono in 1985 to give groups a means to reflect together more effectively, one thing at a time.

Six Hats, Six Colors

The Six Thinking Hats technique involves the use of metaphorical hats in discussions.2 Participants put on hats in turn, possibly more than once but notnecessarily all of them, to indicate directions (not descriptions) of thinking. The color of each is related to a function: • White hat thinking—neutral, objective—focuses on the data and information that are available or needed. • Red hat thinking—emotional—looks at a topic from the point of view of emotions, feelings, and hunches, without having to qualify or justify them. • Black hatthinking—somber, serious—uses experience, logic, judgment, and caution to examine the difficulties and problems associated with a topic and the feasibility of ideas. • Yellow hat thinking—sunny, positive—is concerned with benefits and values.


he term was coined by Edward de Bono in 967. T he larger benefits lie in conversations. But the technique can be also used by an individual. T Knowledge Solutions

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Green hat thinking—growth, fertility—intimates creative thinking and movement, not judgment, to generate new ideas and solutions. Blue hat thinking—cool, the sky above—concentrates on reflection, metacognition (thinking about the thinking required), and the need to manage the thinking process. Figure: The Six Thinking Hats Framework

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Red Hat Emotions &Feelings Emotions or hunches “At This Point” No reasons or justifications Keeping it short

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White Hat Facts & Figures Neutral & objective Checked & believed Facts missing Information & where to source it • • •

Black Hat Cautious & Careful Cautions & dangers Problems & faults Logical reasons must be given

Yellow Hat Speculative Positive Values & benefits (both known &potential) The good in it Logical reasons must be given • • • • Green Hat Creative Thinking Possibilities & alternatives New ideas & concepts Overcoming black hat problems & reinforcing yellow hat values

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Blue Hat Control of Thinking Setting the focus Making summaries Drawing conclusions Making action plans


Pertinent applications for the Six Thinking Hatstechnique include team productivity and communication; product and process improvement, as well as project management; critical and analytical thinking, problem solving, and decision making; and creativity training, meeting facilitation, and meeting management.

blue hat should always be used both at the beginning and at the end of a discussion. What follows it depends on the nature of thetopic A and emotions about it. For instance, wearing a red hat next might defuse strong feelings. Discussions to brainstorm problems might adopt blue, white, green, red, yellow, black, green, and blue hats in sequence. Conversations seeking feedback might follow a blue, black, green, and blue hat pattern.


Wearing Six Thinking Hats


The Six Thinking Hats technique...