Yes, Six Thinking Hats is the technique you’ve been looking for (but you didn’t know you needed.)
Seriously, I’ve used the Six Thinking Hats technique for several years at Microsoft to unlock better thinking and create inclusive team dynamics.
If you’re looking to improve your own thinking or enhance the productivity of your team, give the Six Thinking Hats Technique a try and unlock the full potential of your collective intellect.
Edward de Bono created Six Thinking Hats to improving your thinking by directing your attention.
If you know how to use the Six Thinking Hats, you can directly address with 3 very common problems.:
- The first problem is incomplete thinking.
- The second problem is deadlocks in meetings.
- The third common problem is non-inclusive thinking.
I used to dread attending meetings that resulted in deadlock and drained my energy. In addition, I have witnessed numerous ideas fail due to lack of perspective and inclusivity. However, since discovering the Six Thinking Hats technique, I have been able to solve all three problems with ease.
What is the Six Thinking Hats Technique?
In the book, Six Thinking Hats, Edward de Bono introduces the Six Thinking Hats technique.
The Six Thinking Hats technique is a tool for group problem-solving and decision-making that was developed by Edward de Bono.
It involves a structured approach to thinking that encourages individuals and teams to explore multiple perspectives, identify blind spots, and work collaboratively towards effective solutions.
The technique uses the metaphor of different colored hats to represent different modes of thinking, and it helps to reduce conflict, avoid one-track minds, and improve collaboration.
What are the Six Thinking Hats?
Here’s the Six Thinking Hats, according to Edward de Bono:
- White Hat – the facts and figures
- Red Hat – the emotional view
- Black Hat – the “devil’s advocate”
- Yellow Hat – the positive side
- Green Hat – the creative side
- Blue Hat – the organizing view
Why Use the Six Thinking Hats Technique?
Here are a few of reasons for using Six Thinking Hats:
1. More complete thinking.
Six Thinking Hats helps you leverage more complete thinking. In the Six Thinking Hats, each hat represents a different perspective (facts, emotions, critic … etc.)
If you think of the problem as a pie, then each hat or perspective is a slice of the pie.
If you only have the Devil’s advocate, then you’re missing several other perspectives.
By cycling through the hats, you get a more complete view.
2. More collaborative meetings.
By using the Six Thinking Hats, you can get everybody thinking about the problem in a collaborative way.
Everybody can put on the same hat at the same time. The real key here is that rather than circular or deadlock debates, you focus the group on a particular viewpoint at a time.
This is a similar to writing, then editing vs. editing while your write, or brainstorming, then critiquing vs. critiquing while you brainstorm.
The big difference is that rather than just brainstorming and critiquing, you’re looking at the issue from multiple, specific angles. On the people side of this technique, you’re letting people wear a different “hat”, in a safe, constructive way.
3. More inclusive decision-making.
By allowing everyone to explore and express their thoughts from different angles, the Six Thinking Hats technique provides an inclusive environment that ensures all voices are heard and considered.
This leads to a more well-rounded and diverse range of solutions that take into account the different perspectives and experiences of all team members.
How the Six Thinking Hats Helps Harness Cognitive and Neurodiversity in Problem-Solving
The Six Thinking Hats technique can help with cognitive diversity and neurodiversity by providing a structured and inclusive way for individuals with different thinking styles and cognitive abilities to participate in problem-solving and decision-making processes.
Each hat in the technique represents a different type of thinking, such as analytical, creative, or emotional.
By cycling through all six hats, the technique allows individuals to explore a problem from multiple perspectives and consider different types of information.
This approach can help individuals with different thinking styles, including those with neurodivergent conditions such as autism, ADHD, or dyslexia, to engage in the conversation and contribute their unique insights.
The Six Thinking Hats technique can also help to reduce the impact of biases and stereotypes that may be present in a group setting.
By wearing different hats and considering the problem from different perspectives, individuals are encouraged to set aside preconceived notions and judgments and approach the problem with an open mind.
Overall, the Six Thinking Hats technique provides a framework for inclusive and collaborative decision-making that can benefit individuals with a variety of cognitive styles and abilities.
It allows everyone to participate fully in the discussion and contribute to the best outcome, regardless of their cognitive profile.
How To Use the Six Thinking Hats Technique
This approach for using Six Thinking Hats is lightweight and low-overhead but gets you 80% there without requiring everybody to know the details of the Six Thinking Hats.
The key is to list questions that everybody can focus on and cycle through.
Step 1. List the questions that represent the six thinking hats
List a set of questions on the whiteboard to represent the hats. You can do this either at the start of the meeting or when you hit a sticking spot.
Here’s an example set of questions you can use to represent the hats:
- White Hat: What are the facts and figures? What evidence do we have?
- Red Hat: What’s your gut reaction? How do you feel about this?
- Black Hat: Why can’t we do this? What prevents us? What’s the downside?
- Yellow Hat: What do we like about this? How could we do this? How might we do this?
- Green Hat: What are additional opportunities? What would make this interesting or compelling?
- Blue Hat: How should we think about this? (What are the metaphors or mental models)
The sequence of the questions can matter. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to start thinking up solutions before you’ve focused on the problem.
Step 2. Walkthrough each question as a team
Walkthrough each question as a team. This is the key. Rather than debating each other, you’re now collaborating.
You’ll be surprised when suddenly your team’s “Devil’s Advocate” is now showing off their ability to dream up wild solutions that just might work!
Step 3. Modify the approach.
If it’s not working, change the approach. For example, you might find that you started with the wrong “hat” or question. See if switching to another question or hat makes a difference.
The key is to keep this lightweight but effective.
This isn’t a heavy-handed approach. Instead, it’s a subtle shift in strategy from free-for all debate to focusing and coordinating your team’s thinking power in a deliberate way.
This lets everybody get heard as well as really bang on a problem from multiple angles in a teamwork sort of way.
Collaborative Problem-Solving Made Easy with Six Thinking Hats
The Six Thinking Hats technique is a powerful tool that helps individuals and teams approach problem-solving and decision-making in a more complete and collaborative way.
By cycling through the different hats, you gain a better understanding of the issue from multiple perspectives, leading to better ideas and better decisions.
This approach encourages creative thinking, reduces conflict, and promotes a more cohesive team dynamic.
By wearing different hats and exploring different perspectives, you gain a deeper understanding of the problem at hand and can approach it with a clear and open mind.
The key to success with this technique is to invite people from different backgrounds and experiences to the discussion, ensuring a diversity of perspectives.
By structuring the discussion so that everyone collectively considers the problem wearing all six hats, you can be confident that you’ve explored all angles and are making the best decision possible.
Slow Down to Speed Up with the Six Thinking Hats Technique
In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to get caught up in the first solution that comes to mind.
The Six Thinking Hats technique helps you slow down and approach problems in a more thoughtful and deliberate way.
By utilizing all six perspectives, you’ll be able to make better decisions and solve problems more efficiently.
So, the next time you’re faced with a tough problem, consider using the Six Thinking Hats technique to unlock your creativity, reduce conflict, and achieve more complete and collaborative thinking.
You’ll be amazed at the insights and solutions that come from looking at the problem in a new light.
Get the Book
If you’re looking to improve your own thinking or enhance the productivity of your team, give the Six Thinking Hats Technique a try and unlock the full potential of your collective intellect: