“The Law of Win/Win says, ‘Let’s not do it your way or my way; let’s do it the best way’.” — Greg Anderson
We can all think better by using the Six Thinking Hats technique.
This is one of the BEST tools I’ve used at Microsoft to be more inclusive, solve big problems, and make better decisions with teams around the world.
Are you tired of ineffective meetings, one-track thinking, and limited perspectives?
You can unlock better thinking and inclusive team dynamics with the Six Thinking Hats technique.
The Six Thinking Hats technique has helped me improve my own thinking and also enhance how a team thinks together while exploring multiple perspectives. The Six Thinking Hats technique is a way to look at a problem from multiple perspectives.
What I love most about this technique is that it helps to reduce conflict, avoid one-track minds, and improve collaboration. It’s a simple process, and I’ve learned more effective ways to use it in real life even if people are not trained in the Six Thinking Hats technique.
If you’re looking for a way to improve decision-making, reduce group conflict, and increase collaboration, I highly recommend giving the Six Thinking Hats Technique a try.
Oh yeah, and it’s a way to foster inclusivity of diverse thinking styles, and value cognitive diversity and neurodiversity, for real.
Key Takeaways from Six Thinking Hats
Here are key takeaways from Six Thinking Hats:
- The Six Thinking Hats technique is a powerful problem-solving framework that encourages diverse perspectives and parallel thinking.
- By switching hats, you can switch points of view.
- It’s easier to ask somebody to wear another hat, than tell them to change their thinking.
- You can reduce time in meetings spent arguing towards constructive dialogue.
- You can better balance thinking, particularly in a group (for example, creativity with negativity or emotional perspective with facts.)
What are the Six Thinking Hats?
Edward De Bono’s book, Six Thinking Hats, presents a unique framework for organizing and improving thinking that I find really interesting.
The Six Thinking Hats is a thinking tool that encourages individuals or groups to think about a problem or situation from different perspectives. Each “thinking hat” represents a different type of thinking that can be used to approach a problem.
By using these different thinking hats, individuals or groups can systematically explore a problem or situation from multiple angles, which can lead to better understanding and more creative solutions.
The Six Thinking Hats and How To Use Them
Here are the Six Thinking Hats according to Edward de Bono:
- White Hat: Focuses on facts, data, and information.
- Red Hat: Focuses on emotions, feelings, and intuition.
- Black Hat: Focuses on potential risks, downsides, or problems.
- Yellow Hat: Focuses on potential benefits, advantages, or positive aspects.
- Green Hat: Focuses on generating new ideas and possibilities.
- Blue Hat: Focuses on the big picture, organization, and control of the thinking process.
Let’s walk through each of the Six Thinking Hats:
1. White Hat – the facts and figures
This hat is all about data and facts. When wearing the white hat, you are focused on gathering information and analyzing it objectively. This is a very rational, logical mode of thinking that avoids emotions or opinions.
Use: Explore the evidence, information, and data related to the problem.
2. Red Hat – the emotional view
When wearing the red hat, you are thinking about your emotions and feelings. You might share your gut instincts or intuition, or express your likes and dislikes. This is a highly subjective mode of thinking that allows for personal perspectives.
Use: What is everyone’s gut telling them?
3. Black Hat – the “devil’s advocate”
Black Hat: This hat is all about critical thinking and judgment. When wearing the black hat, you are focused on identifying potential problems or pitfalls. You might explore what could go wrong, what might not work, and what the negative consequences could be.
Use: Take a moment to examine the assumptions you are making, assess the risks you are facing, and consider the potential consequences if you act solely on your instincts.
4 Yellow Hat – the positive side
The yellow hat is the opposite of the black hat. When wearing the yellow hat, you are focused on identifying the positive aspects of a situation. You might explore the benefits, the opportunities, and the potential solutions to a problem.
Use: Think about the potential positive outcomes. What opportunities or benefits could arise from the proposed course or courses of action?
5. Green Hat – the creative side
The green hat is the creative thinking hat. When wearing the green hat, you are focused on generating new ideas and possibilities. You might explore innovative solutions, brainstorm new approaches, or explore what’s possible.
Use: What are some creative alternatives you haven’t explored yet? Is there something important you might be overlooking?
6. Blue Hat – the organizing view
The blue hat is the thinking about thinking hat. When wearing the blue hat, you are focused on the thinking process itself. You might explore what questions to ask, what direction to take, and how to organize the thinking process.
Use: Bring it all together. Combine the different perspectives and ideas to reach a collective decision or establish a clear plan of action for next steps.
No Training? No Problem…Just Use Questions
I kept running into meetings that needed the Six Thinking Hats, but my colleagues were not trained in the Six Thinking Hats.
So, what did I do? (Aside from recommending they read de Bono’s books and take the training)
I realized that all I had to do was list out questions and get the team to agree we would walk through the questions together.
Here’s an example set of questions you can use to represent the hats:
- White Hat – What evidence do we have? What are the facts and figures? What information do we need?
- Red Hat – What’s your gut reaction? How do you feel about this? What emotions does this bring out?
- Black Hat – What are potential risks? What are potential challenges? Why can’t we do this?
- Yellow Hat – What does success look like? What are potential benefits? How can we do this?
- Green Hat – How can we think about this differently? What are alternative ideas? What experiments could we do?
- Blue Hat – What’s the outcome? What have we achieved so far? How should we proceed?
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.
Switch Hats to Switch Your Thinking
The metaphor of the hat makes it easy to switch modes of thinking and approach problems from different angles.
The primary goal of the Six Thinking Hats technique is to turn negative and destructive arguments into constructive and productive thinking.
By assigning people different imaginary hats, depending on what type of thinking is needed for the moment, you can encourage everyone to approach problems from multiple perspectives.
I’ve found that using the Six Thinking Hats technique can be incredibly helpful, both in my personal life and at work. It’s an effective way to avoid groupthink and increase collaboration, and it can help you see problems in a new light.
Plus, it’s a fun and engaging way to improve your thinking skills.
Explore Multiple Perspectives with Skill
In my experience, limited perspectives leads to unruly arguments, false victories and mental models in the sand.
Normally, when we look at a problem, we might get stuck looking at the negative side, or the positive side. Or, we might look at it in terms of just the facts and ignore how we feel about it.
The amazing insight that de Bono has is that we can all think better if we learn to explore multiple perspectives.
Anyone can do this.
With Six Thinking Hats, you explore six different views of a problem, by putting on an imaginary hat for each perspective.
This technique can help you as an individual to explore a problem more robustly and to get unstuck from your thinking.
And it’s a powerful technique for teams to help everybody on the team look at different angles of the problem.
The imaginary hats also help people step out of their comfort zone and explore alternative or even competing views.
And it’s a powerful thing, when everybody wears the same hat at the same time, so everybody is helping each other see the positive, see the negative, see the facts, etc.
Six Thinking Hats Technique is a Powerful Tool for Inclusive and Collaborative Decision-Making
Unlocking the full potential of your team’s problem-solving capabilities means harnessing the power of cognitive and neurodiversity.
That’s where the Six Thinking Hats technique comes in.
It’s a structured and inclusive approach to decision-making ensures that every member of the team can contribute, no matter their thinking style or cognitive ability.
The Six Thinking Hats technique involves six different hats that represent various modes of thinking, including analytical, creative, and emotional.
By cycling through all six hats, individuals can consider the problem from multiple perspectives, leading to more complete and innovative solutions.
This approach is particularly beneficial for individuals with neurodivergent conditions, including autism, ADHD, or dyslexia, who may have unique insights to offer but may struggle to engage in traditional brainstorming or problem-solving settings.
By wearing different hats and considering the problem from various viewpoints, the Six Thinking Hats technique also helps to reduce the impact of biases and stereotypes that may be present in a group setting, allowing individuals to approach the problem with an open mind.
The Six Thinking Hats technique is a powerful tool for inclusive and collaborative decision-making, empowering all team members to contribute their best ideas and reach the best outcome, regardless of their cognitive profile.
The Key to Effective Problem Solving: Embracing All Six Thinking Hats
Everyone has the ability to think in all six ways of the Six Thinking Hats technique, but we tend to be more comfortable wearing one or two of them.
De Bono did recommend two key things to improve thinking and make better decisions:
- To ensure that all angles are considered, it’s important to invite people into the discussion who represent a cross-section of these instinctive ways of thinking.
- In addition, it’s critical to structure your discussion in a way that ALL participants collectively consider the problem wearing all six “hats.”
I’ve found that pplying the Six Thinking Hats technique in business and project management has proven to be an effective way to make better decisions.
It leads to more productive meetings, stronger project teams, and an overall sounder approach to decision-making.
3 Ideas to Keep in Mind When Using the Six Thinking Hats
If you’re new to the Six Thinking Hats technique, here are three key ideas to keep in mind:
- Focus on thinking your way forward, rather than judging your way forward. This means avoiding the urge to criticize or dismiss ideas, and instead focusing on generating creative alternatives.
- Use parallel thinking instead of argument, adversarial, and confrontational approaches. This means that everyone in the discussion wears the same “hat” and thinks in the same direction at the same time.
- Concentrate on setting the direction for thinking, rather than just describing the perspective of your thinking. This helps ensure that the conversation stays on track and moves towards a collective decision or clear next steps.
The Six Thinking Hats: Your Key to Better Thinking and Collaboration
The Six Thinking Hats technique provides a practical and effective framework for improving decision-making and problem-solving.
By providing a structured approach to thinking and encouraging a diversity of perspectives, this technique can help teams and individuals avoid blind spots and overcome mental blocks.
Through the use of the six hats, individuals are encouraged to consider various angles, identify assumptions, evaluate risks and opportunities, and ultimately arrive at a more thoughtful and informed decision.
This approach can lead to greater creativity, better collaboration, and more effective outcomes.
While the Six Thinking Hats technique may take some time and effort to implement, the benefits are clear.
Beyond my own experiences and success, the Six Thinking Hats technique has been used successfully in various fields, from business and project management to education and healthcare.
By recognizing and addressing our natural cognitive biases and limitations, and by fostering a culture of constructive and collaborative thinking, we can better navigate complex problems and challenges. The Six Thinking Hats technique provides a valuable tool for achieving this goal, and I encourage everyone to try it out and see the benefits for themselves.
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:
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