What is the Six Thinking Hats methodology?
The Six Thinking Hats is a role-playing model presented by Edward de Bono in 1986. It serves as a team-based problem solving and brainstorming technique that can be used to explore problems and solutions and uncover ideas and options that might otherwise be overlooked by a homogeneously thinking group.
The basic idea behind the Six Thinking Hats is the idea that most people think and reason in a specific way based on their personality type. This means that a more emotional person may generate ideas differently than a more analytical person, and vice-versa. Similarly a pessimist will approach a situation very differently than an optimist.
The six types of “Thinking Hats” are:
- White Hat: Similar to the calm and pure emotions associated with the colour white, this type of thinking focuses on analytical, objective thinking, with an emphasis on facts and feasibility.
- Red Hat: We often associate the colour red with anger and heat and hence this represents emotional thinking, subjective feelings, perception, and opinion.
- Black Hat: The colour black has been stereotypically linked with doom and gloom and so this forms a type of thinking that is critical, skeptical, focused on risks, and identifying problems.
- Yellow Hat: Often symbolising sunshine and happiness, the yellow hat is about thinking optimistic, speculative, best-case scenarios.
- Blue Hat: Blue being the colour of the sky and high above creates a sense of structured thinking, high-level overview of the situation, the big picture.
- Green Hat: Associated with the colour of trees and nature, the green hat is about creative, associative thinking, new ideas, brainstorming, out-of-the-box.
Why use the Six Thinking Hats method?
Six Thinking Hats is a powerful technique for decision making that includes different points of view.
The process and methodology allows emotion and skepticism to be brought into what might normally be a purely rational process, and it opens up the opportunity for creativity within decision making.
Decisions made using the Six Thinking Hats technique can be sounder and more resilient than would otherwise be the case. It can also help you to avoid possible pitfalls before you have committed to a decision.
Who should use the Six Thinking Hats method?
Anyone – teams, businesses, organizations and groups – trying to make decisions that will affect internal and external stakeholders can use the Six Thinking hats to brainstorm ideas and thoughts with different points of views. The method is also popularly used by facilitators trying to support teams and organizations to make decisions.
Use the Six Thinking Hats model to help with:
- Running better and more structured meetings;
- Making better decisions effectively and efficiently;
- Approaching problems from various angles of facts, emotions and creativity;
- Inspiring idea generations;
- More collaboration during brainstorming and decision making.
Six Thinking Hats template
How to do a Six Thinking Hats analysis
Six Thinking Hats is a powerful technique for looking at decision-making from different points of view. By introducing a structured parallel thinking process, it helps people to be more focused and mindfully involved in a discussion.
Start brainstorming through each of the different hats. The sequence of hats used should best fit your purpose.
Review the responses collected and look for common themes that can be grouped into one.
Once clear themes are defined, encourage participants to vote on their top three most important based on objectives set out.
Show the process of your brainstorming session to be shared with other stakeholders and use the results to help define next steps.
Facilitate the conversation (wearing the blue hat).
As an inspiration, check the following example of how to use Six Thinking Hats sequentially to resolve a problem with different alternative solution:
- White Hat: Present the facts of the problem
- Green Hat: Generate ideas on how the problem can be solved
- Yellow Hat: Evaluate the ideas by listing their benefits
- Black Hat: Evaluate the ideas by listing their drawbacks
- Red Hat: Get everybody’s gut feelings about the alternatives
- Blue Hat: Summarise the discussion and agree on the conclusions
You may decide which sequence of hat use fits best for your purpose. In general, it is recommended that each hat is worn at some point, however there are some sensible sub-sequences, too
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