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Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats is a system designed by Edward de Bono (physician, psychologist, author, inventor and consultant) who founded the term ‘lateral thinking’.  It is a tool for steering group discussion (e.g. management teams) and individual thinking to promote fast, smart, efficient and optimal decisions.  

The human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways and de Bono identifies six distinct directions in which the brain can be challenged. With each direction the brain identifies and brings into conscious thought certain aspects of issues being considered (e.g. gut instinct, pessimistic judgement, neutral facts). 

The six distinct directions are assigned a colour:

  • The Blue Hat (manages the thinking process) – What is the subject? What are we thinking about? What is the goal? It looks at the big picture.
  • The White Hat (information needed or known) – Considers purely what information is available, and the facts?
  • The Red Hat (emotions) – Instinctive gut reactions or statements of emotional feeling, hunches or intuition.
  • The Black Hat (judgemental) – Reasons to be cautious and conservative. Practical/realistic.
  • The Yellow Hat (optimism) – Benefits and harmony. Sees the brighter, sunny side of situations.
  • The Green Hat (creativity) – Statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes. Thinks creatively, out of the box and looks at possibilities, alternatives and new ideas.

De Bono believed that the key to the successful use of the Six Thinking Hats methodology was the deliberate focusing of the discussion on a particular approach as needed during the meeting. For instance, a meeting may be called to review a particular problem and to develop a solution for the problem. The Six Thinking Hats method could then be used in a sequence to first explore the problem, then develop a set of solutions, and to finally choose a solution through critical examination of the solution set.