Six Thinking Hats® is a powerful technique that helps us to explore different perspectives towards a complex situation or challenge. It simplifies thinking by creating focus on one thing at a time, and allows us to engineer switch in thinking without offending others. It has been proven to significantly reduce meeting times, improve the quality and speed of brain-storming and decision-making, and improve thinking productivity. In this Six Thinking Hats summary, we’ll give a brief overview of the 6 Hats methodology, as well as a synopsis of each of the 6 hats.
For more details and examples, do get our complete book summary bundle in text, graphic and audio formats.
The main challenge of thinking is trying to juggle too many things all at once. The Six Hats allow us to systematically focus on different aspects of a situation or decision, so we become more focused yet see a more complete picture. Each of the Six Thinking Hats represents a different style of thinking. The participants can explore all perspectives by using the 6 hats, one at a time.
Six Hats is a parallel thinking technique.
There are many benefits to using this method, including
• More power: We are now fully utilizing the thinking capacity, experience and knowledge of all the group members.
• Save time: There is no longer a need to respond out of politeness, or to argue every point of view. Meetings can take half to one-fifteenth of the time.
• Remove ego: There is no ego to be exerted from attacking and putting down others, to get your way or show off how clever you are. The only way to exert your ego with Six Hats is to be a good thinker.
• Simple: By focusing on one thing at a time, it is easier to manoeuvre complex tasks/ challenges and get a full picture at the end.
How to Use The Six Hats
Here’s an overview of how to use the 6 Hats:
Here are some important points to note:
•Hats are about direction (“what can happen”), not descriptions (“what is” or “what has happened”)
• Hats are not meant to label or categorize people; The main idea is that all of us can and should think in every direction.
• Use it like a game, to set the rules of behaviour and have everyone follow those rules. Because it targets behaviours, not personalities, it is a great tool to effect change. The book (and our summary) includes several guidelines to help you to implement this with your team.
6 Hats, 6 Thinking Styles
Each of the Six Thinking Hats represents a different style of thinking. Here’s a quick outline – do get our complete Six Thinking Hats summary (click here for the 9-page summary) for more details on each of the hats, with guidelines and tips on how to use them:
1. WHITE HAT
This is for putting up facts and figures in a neutral and objective way. Look at available information and also identify information gaps, so we can choose to fill them or just take account of them. This is where you provide background information, analyse and extrapolate historical trends.
2. RED HAT
The red hat represents the emotional view. It recognizes and gives visibility to feelings, intuition and gut reaction as an important part of thinking. The red hat allows a thinker to switch in and out of his feeling mode, and also to invite others to share their feelings, in a non-judgemental way. By making emotions visible, we can observe their influence in the thinking process.
The black hat represents caution and what could go wrong. It points out what doesn’t fit, what may not work, what is wrong, and hence protects us from fatal flaws and wasted resources. The black hat recognizes the value of caution and risk assessment; it makes our plans more robust.
4. YELLOW HAT
The yellow hat focuses on value, benefits and optimism. It is positive and constructive. It helps us to develop “value sensitivity” and invest time to seek out value.
5. GREEN HAT
The green hat is about creativity, new ideas and change. This is when we present alternative and new ideas, possibilities, and modify or improve suggested ideas. It is about recognizing the value of creative effort and allocating time for it.
6. BLUE HAT
The blue hat is for process control, and for managing and organizing thinking. It has a strategic role for laying out the overall plan, and also for moment-to-moment instructions. It helps to organize the other hats, assess priorities, list constraints etc. Unlike the other hats, the blue hat is a permanent role. It is worn by the facilitator or chairperson of the meeting, though the leader may also assign the blue-hat role to others, or invite participants to wear the blue hat.
Here’s a simple recap of the 6 hats mentioned above. Do get more details from our full Six Thinking Hats summary (get full summary here).
Points to Note
This revised edition of the book came with Dr. de Bono’s insights, updates and expansions after 14 years of experience applying the Six Thinking Hats method. He acknowledges that the technique works best when there is adequate practice for it to become a common language in an organization. In his book, he provides many practical examples and simulations to help us imagine how the hats can and should be used, as well as how to differentiate between the different hats. Do buy a copy of the book, or get our complete summary bundle for a detailed overview.
Click here to download Six Thinking Hats book summary and infographic