Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is a critical thinking tool that allows individuals or groups to analyze decisions from different perspectives. It was first introduced in his 1985 book, “Six Thinking Hats”. The six hats represent different modes of thinking, each with a specific color that corresponds to it.
The White Hat represents objective and factual thinking, where the focus is on gathering information and data. The Red Hat is for emotional thinking, allowing individuals to express their feelings, intuitions, and gut reactions. The Black Hat represents critical thinking and identifying potential problems, risks, and weaknesses. The Yellow Hat is for positive thinking, focusing on strengths, opportunities, and potential benefits. The Green Hat is for creative thinking, generating new ideas and solutions. Lastly, the Blue Hat represents reflective thinking, which is used to evaluate the thinking process itself and ensure that all perspectives have been considered.
Using the Six Thinking Hats exercise can help individuals and teams make better decisions by looking at them from multiple angles. It also helps to overcome groupthink, where the desire for consensus outweighs the critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints. By assigning different hats to different members of the group, everyone can represent a specific perspective and contribute to the discussion in a meaningful way.
Research has shown that the Six Thinking Hats exercise can improve decision-making processes in various settings, such as healthcare, education, and business. A study published in the International Journal of Management in Education found that the Six Thinking Hats exercise improved critical thinking skills and decision-making abilities in college students. Another study published in the Journal of Healthcare Leadership found that the Six Thinking Hats exercise improved team communication and decision-making in a healthcare setting.
In conclusion, the Six Thinking Hats is a useful critical thinking exercise that can improve decision-making processes by looking at them through different perspectives. It helps to overcome groupthink and encourages creativity and innovation. Research has shown its effectiveness in various settings, making it a valuable tool for individuals and teams alike.
How to Use Them
Step-by-step guide on how to implement the Six Thinking Hats exercise in a group of 6-10 people:
- Introduce the Six Thinking Hats framework to the group, explaining that each hat represents a different perspective or style of thinking.
- Assign a different hat to each member of the group. The six hats are:
- White Hat: objective, data-driven thinking
- Red Hat: emotional, intuitive thinking
- Black Hat: critical, cautious thinking
- Yellow Hat: optimistic, positive thinking
- Green Hat: creative, innovative thinking
- Blue Hat: strategic, big-picture thinking
- Ask each member to “wear” their assigned hat and think about the decision or problem at hand from the perspective of that hat.
- Encourage each member to share their thoughts and ideas from their assigned perspective. Ensure that everyone has an opportunity to speak and be heard.
- After everyone has shared their thoughts from their assigned perspective, switch hats and repeat the process.
- Go through each hat until every member has had the opportunity to wear each one.
- Encourage the group to discuss and synthesize the ideas and perspectives shared. Identify any commonalities, discrepancies, or gaps in thinking.
- Use the insights gained from the exercise to make a more informed and well-rounded decision.
It is important to note that the Six Thinking Hats exercise can be adapted to fit the specific needs of your group or organization. You may choose to modify the hats, add additional hats, or adjust the process as needed. The key is to use this exercise as a tool to encourage diverse thinking and perspectives to arrive at the best possible decision.
Let’s say you’re in a management meeting and you need to decide whether or not to introduce a new product to your portfolio to tackle declining sales. To make sure you’ve considered all possible angles, you decide to use the Six Thinking Hats tool.
First, you put on the yellow hat and look at the sizable chunk of the market that the new product might cater to. It’s a big opportunity for capturing a lot of revenue.
Then, you switch to the black hat to look at possible downsides. You consider what might happen if the new product cannibalizes your existing products or if it doesn’t offer enough value for people to buy it.
Next, someone in the group puts on the white hat and points out that the data you have about the market shows several unmet needs. The data also suggests that declining sales of existing products signal a trend that the market as a whole is moving to different solutions.
After putting on the yellow hat again, you see that the unmet needs in the market represent a solid opportunity and it’s supported by data. You consider the possible downsides and ask, “How might we make sure the new product offers enough value?”
Putting on the green hat, you brainstorm ideas for prototyping the new product and testing its value with people.
The facilitator, wearing the blue hat, suggests postponing the decision until the new product is validated with people, as the meeting has been running for a while.
To check how everyone feels about this plan, the group puts on the red hat. People agree that it’s a high-stakes decision and it feels right to lower the risk before making the decision. They’re less anxious about it now.
In this example, by using the Six Thinking Hats, every perspective was considered, and the group arrived at a reasonable next step toward making the decision.
- De Bono, E. (1985). Six Thinking Hats. Penguin.
- De Bono, E. (1985). Six Thinking Hats. New York: Little, Brown and Company.
- De Bono, E. (1999). Six Thinking Hats. London: Penguin Books.
- De Bono, E. (2009). Six Thinking Hats. London: Penguin Books.
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