We are all very accustomed on traditional type of thinking which goes like this: "I am right, you are wrong". We usually try to build a logical argument to prove the other side is wrong. Thankfully there are better methods which forces you to move outside of this old habitual thinking style and closer to the fruitful thinking without attacking or judging. One such method is Six Thinking Hats which is a thinking framework that provides an alternative to the argument.
This thinking method was invented by Dr. Edward de Bono who is the leading international authority on creative thinking and lateral thinking guru. He has written more than 60 books, including the great book Six Thinking Hats.
An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea. ~Edward de Bono
The Six Thinking Hats helps to accomplish the following:
- Separate out thinking so we can do one thing at a time.
- Ask people to switch thinking from one mode to another.
- Separate ego from performance.
- Signal what thinking process we are going to use next.
- Allow specific time for creativity.
- Explore subjects in parallel.
- Expand from one-dimensional to full-colored thinking.
Imagine that you have six different hats. Each hat is a different color and represents a different type of thinking. For instance, if you want to be positive and find some benefits to some idea you just put the yellow hat on.
The hats and colors are designed to make Parallel Thinking a practical process. Parallel Thinking is getting everyone focused on using the same thinking tool at the same time and the goal is to think of many points under each different kind of hat.
Blue Hat - Control: This hat manages the thinking process and sets the focus and agenda. It organizes the thinking and makes adjustments if the process isn't productive. It summarize the major points of the discussion and calls the group to make decisions. The hat is usually worn by the meeting facilitator.
White Hat - Information: This hat focuses on facts, data and information available. It asks the following questions:
- What do we know?
- What do we need to know?
- Where can we get this information?
It also looks at Other People's Views (O.P.V.) by asking the following questions:
- What views does this person or group have?
- What information do we need from them?
- How could we get this missing information?
Red Hat - Feelings: This hat is concerned with emotions, feelings, hunches and intuition. It does not require us to justify or explain the reasons for our feelings and it should be limited to 30 seconds. The key questions are:
- What are my feelings right now?
- What does my intuition tell me?
- What is my gut reaction?
Yellow Hat - Benefits: This hat is optimistic and represents the positive aspects of the situation. It is the opposite of black hat and it reinforces creative ideas and new directions. The key questions are:
- What are the benefits?
- What are the positives?
- What is the value here?
Black Hat - Judgment: This hat is gloomy and negative and is used to point out the weaknesses of the situation. This hat is usually overused because a lot of people place too much emphasis on critical thinking. The key questions are:
- What are the challenges - both existing and potential?
- What are some of the difficulties?
- What are the points for caution?
- What are the risks?
Green Hat - Creativity: This hat is for creative and unconventional thinking. It encourages a search for new ideas and alternatives. The key questions are:
- Are there other ways to do this?
- What else could we do here?
- What are the possibilities?
- What will overcome our black hat concerns?
Six Thinking Hats can be used in various sequences (fixed, flexible or evolving) for different desired outcomes (process improvement, idea generation,...). The following sequence for instance can be used for problem solving:
- Blue Hat: Focus statement.
- White Hat: What could be causing the problem?
- Green Hat: Generate ideas to solve the problem.
- Red Hat: Choose the best ideas.
- Yellow Hat:What are the benefits of each idea?
- Black Hat: What are the weaknesses of each idea?
- Green Hat: Overcoming the weaknesses.
- Blue Hat: What do we need to do, by when?