DESCRIPTION OF THE SIX THINKING HATS
The Six Thinking Hats is a simple, but powerful technique introduced by Dr Edward de Bono in one of his books. It is used to analyse decisions from a number of different perspectives. It forces you to move outside of your habitual thinking style and helps to get a balanced view of a situation.
The technique outlines different thinking processes associated with a different coloured hat. It opens up the opportunity for creativity within Decision Making, allowing for sounder and more resilient choices to be made.
There are six different color imaginary hats that you can put on or take off. These identify the type or direction of thinking of a group at a particular time. The main idea is to have the group “wear only one hat at a time”.
This approach is based on the concept of parallel thinking, opposed to traditional thinking. It forces the team members to adopt, together, a particular thinking style represented by each coloured hat.
The following video explains the concepts attached to this creative technique. Professor De Bono presents the Six Thinking Hats very clearly.
During the preparation phase, the person who called for the meeting poses a specific question or calls for a decision on a particular topic. In order for the Six Thinking Hats group exercise to be efficient a leader, a timekeeper and a person taking note should be designated, and a time limit should be defined.
There many different Hats sequences being used successfully in meetings and practical situations. It really depends of the nature of the issue. The sequence described here is a common example when the technique is applied to find a creative solution to a problem.
Generally, people start with the blue hat to discuss how the meeting will be conducted and to develop the goals and objectives in more details. During this first phase, the leader asks the participants the following questions:
- Why are we here?
- What we are thinking about?
- What is the definition of the situation or problem?
- What are alternative definitions?
- What we want to achieve?
Starting with the blue hat also allows to plan for the hats sequence following this first step.
Participants are encouraged to review existing information, search for gaps in knowledge, analyze past trends, and extrapolate key learnings from historical data. At this stage, the following questions may be asked:
- What information do we have?
- What information do we need?
- What information is mission?
- What questions do we need to ask?
- How are we going to get the information we need?
The participants must stay as neutral and objective as possible, without bringing any judgement opinion on the problem.
Once the problem is fully defined and the objective and historical data has been brought up; the Red hat can be used to ask participants how they feel about the problem or situation. They use intuition, gut reaction and emotions. Encourages them to think about and accept other people’s reactions. Participants do not need to explain or justify their views or feelings. The questions to ask are:
- How do you feel about that?
- How do you react to this?
- What is your intuition/opinion about this?
- What’s the first thing that comes in your mind?
This stage is used to look at the problem through the logical, critical thinking lens. What makes the participants careful, cautious, or defensive about the topic? It helps to identify dangers, problems and obstacles. Questions asked can be:
- What will happen if we take this action?
- What can go wrong if we proceed?
- What are the weaknesses?
- How will people respond?
- Will it work? Why it won’t work?
The purpose is not to enter in an argument, but rather to make plans and decisions more resilient and to spot flaws and risks beforehand.
This stage helps capturing the positive aspects of the problem or situation. By wearing the Yellow Hat, the participants are encouraged to think about the benefits and the positive added value in attached to the situation.
What is the merit of the approach?
What positives can you see in this idea?
- What could be done to make this work better? Faster? Cheaper?
- How could this help us?
This is when participants express their creativity and generate new innovative ideas. Everyone is encouraged to use creative thinking to overcome the possible issues and to develop alternative (out of the box) solutions to the situation.
- What are some other ways to solve this out?
- What are some fresh ideas or approaches?
- Think outside the box? What other alternatives come up?
- Can we shape it or adapt current solutions?
After the creative Green Hat phase, it is quite interesting to put back the Red Hat on to evaluate how participants are feeling about what has been discussed until then. In many cases, participants that were initially concerned feel more positive and enthusiastic about the situation and the ideas that were brought up.
Closing with the Blue Hat allows to develop conclusions, to evaluate and to summarise the solutions or decisions taken. The leader and scribe can try at this stage to summarize where the Six Hat Thinking technique led the team.
What have we achieved today ?
What decision have we reached ?
What are the next steps ?
If a solution or resolution was not clearly identified, they could suggest another technique capable of solving the problem.
GO FURTHER WITH THE SIX THINKING HATS
Edward de Bono’s official website (www.debono.com)
de Bono, E. (1999) Six Thinking Hats, New York: Back Bay Books (book available here)
Keep in mind that you will get the best out of this creative technique when you fully understand the concepts in De Bono’s work and if the group exercise is managed correctly. A network of authorised de Bono distributors and trainers deliver training in a number of de Bono methods around the world. If you want to use the de Bono tools such as Six Thinking Hats to solve complex problems or to achieve challenging projects in your company, do not hesitate to contact de Bono Thinking Systems to find an authorised trainer in your city or region.
de Bono Thinking Systems is the authorised distributor of the associated training programmes for the commercial training sector.
For all IP related enquiries including the de Bono publishing materials, copyright approvals and licensing please contact de Bono Global info/at/debono.com