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Six Thinking Hats - Book summary

Six Thinking Hats® by Edward de Bono 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 free 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.

Six Thinking Hats: A Parallel Thinking Technique

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 Thinking Hats summary_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 maneuver complex tasks/ challenges and get a full picture at the end.

How to Use The Six Thinking Hats

Here’s an overview of how to use the 6 Hats:

Six Thinking Hats summary_using 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 6 Thinking Hats represents a different style of thinking. 

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.

3. BLACK HAT

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 visual recap of the 6 hats mentioned above. Do get more details from our complete 9-page Six Thinking Hats summary.

Six Thinking Hats summary_The 6 hats

Getting More from Six Thinking Hats

Ready to learn more about each of the 6 hats and start applying the 6-hats technique? Then do check out our complete summary bundle which includes a one-page infographic summary in pdf, a 9-page text summary in pdf, and an 18-min audio summary in mp3.

Six Thinking Hats summary - book summary bundle

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. You can purchase the book here or debonogroup.com for more details and resources on the 6-hats technique.

Want to improve your critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving skills? Then do check out our summaries for Think Like Da Vinci, A More Beautiful Question and The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking.

About the Author of Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats was written by Dr. Edward de Bono–one of the leading authorities in the fields of creative thinking, innovation and the direct teaching of thinking. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2005. In 1967, he coined the term Lateral Thinking, which is now part of language and is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Dr. de Bono was born in Malta. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, holds an MA in psychology and physiology from Oxford, a D. Phil. in Medicine and also a Ph.D. from Cambridge. His concepts have shaped the practices of many companies globally, and his methods are now used widely in school curriculum. Dr. de Bono has written 70 books with translations into 38 languages.

Six Thinking Hats Quotes

“Juggling with six balls at the same time is rather difficult. Tossing up one ball at a time is much easier.”

“The biggest enemy of thinking is complexity, for that leads to confusion.”

“When thinking is clear and simple, it becomes more enjoyable and more effective.”

“A vision sets direction for thinking and for action.”

“Value and benefit are by no means always obvious.”

“In the end there should be a clear map of possible problems, obstacles, difficulties and dangers.”

Click here to download the Six Thinking Hats infographic & summary

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