The Six Thinking Hats model was created by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, who noted that personality type was a key driver of how people approached problem-solving. For example, optimists view situations differently from pessimists. Analytical individuals may generate ideas that a more emotional person would not, and vice versa.
|Six Thinking Hats Model||Key Elements||Analysis||Implications||Applications||Examples|
|Definition||The Six Thinking Hats Model is a structured brainstorming and decision-making technique developed by Edward de Bono. It involves using six metaphorical “hats” of different colors to represent different modes of thinking and perspectives. The hats guide individuals or teams in exploring various facets of a problem or idea.||Analyzing the Six Thinking Hats Model involves understanding the six distinct hats and their associated thinking modes: – White Hat: Factual and objective information. – Red Hat: Emotions, intuition, and feelings. – Black Hat: Critical and cautious thinking. – Yellow Hat: Optimism, positive thinking, and opportunities. – Green Hat: Creative and innovative ideas. – Blue Hat: Process control and organization. Effective use of these hats requires a clear understanding of when and how to apply each mode.||The Six Thinking Hats Model encourages structured and diverse thinking. It helps individuals or teams explore problems or decisions from multiple angles, fostering creativity, critical analysis, and balanced decision-making. By assigning specific thinking modes, it promotes clarity and reduces conflicts in group discussions.||This model is applicable in various contexts, including problem-solving, decision-making, idea generation, and project planning. It can be used by individuals or groups seeking to improve the quality of their thinking and collaboration. It is especially valuable in situations where diverse perspectives are beneficial.||– Problem-solving sessions: Teams use the hats to analyze complex issues and generate solutions. – Decision-making processes: Individuals or groups employ the hats to assess options and make informed choices. – Creative brainstorming: Teams use the Green Hat to explore new ideas and opportunities. – Project planning: The Blue Hat helps organize and control project discussions and tasks. – Conflict resolution: Parties employ the hats to address conflicts from different viewpoints.|
|White Hat||The White Hat represents a focus on facts, data, and objective information. When wearing the White Hat, thinkers strive for neutrality and base their judgments on available evidence and data.||Analyzing the White Hat mode involves considering how it contributes to the decision-making process. Thinkers adopt an analytical and evidence-based approach, relying on concrete information rather than opinions or emotions. This mode serves as a foundation for objective assessment.||The White Hat encourages a disciplined and factual approach to problem-solving and decision-making. It ensures that decisions are well-informed and based on credible information. It also helps identify gaps in data and highlights areas where additional research or analysis may be needed.||The White Hat is particularly useful when dealing with complex issues that require a factual and unbiased assessment. It supports data-driven decision-making and helps prevent decisions based on intuition or emotions alone.||– Business analysis: Examining financial data, market research, and performance metrics to inform strategic decisions. – Scientific research: Evaluating experimental results and empirical data to draw conclusions. – Risk assessment: Analyzing data to assess potential risks and their likelihood. – Project evaluation: Using data to assess project progress and performance objectively.|
|Red Hat||The Red Hat represents emotions, feelings, and intuition. When wearing the Red Hat, thinkers express their emotions, gut reactions, and personal feelings without the need for justification or logic.||Analyzing the Red Hat mode involves recognizing the role of emotions and intuition in decision-making. Thinkers embrace their emotional responses and consider how these feelings may influence their perspectives. The Red Hat allows for the acknowledgment of subjective experiences and personal preferences.||The Red Hat acknowledges the importance of emotions in decision-making. It provides a platform for individuals to express their intuitive responses and share their feelings about a particular issue or idea. By acknowledging emotions, it can enhance empathy and understanding in group discussions.||The Red Hat is beneficial when individuals need to explore their gut reactions, personal preferences, or emotional responses to a situation. It encourages open and honest communication about feelings and intuitions.||– Team-building exercises: Encouraging team members to share their feelings and impressions about a project or team dynamics. – Creative brainstorming sessions: Allowing participants to express their initial emotional reactions to creative ideas. – Conflict resolution: Encouraging parties in a conflict to share their emotional experiences and concerns. – Personal reflection: Using the Red Hat privately to explore one’s feelings and reactions to a decision or situation.|
|Black Hat||The Black Hat represents critical thinking and caution. When wearing the Black Hat, thinkers adopt a pessimistic and critical stance, highlighting potential risks, drawbacks, and weaknesses in an idea or decision.||Analyzing the Black Hat mode involves recognizing its role in identifying potential pitfalls and challenges. Thinkers take a critical perspective and assess the negative aspects of a proposal or plan. The Black Hat is valuable for risk assessment and contingency planning.||The Black Hat serves as a safeguard against over-optimism and hasty decisions. It encourages a thorough examination of potential flaws, risks, and obstacles. By addressing weaknesses proactively, it helps prevent costly mistakes and surprises. It complements other thinking modes by ensuring a balanced view.||The Black Hat is essential during decision-making processes where risks and negative consequences need careful consideration. It helps teams anticipate challenges and devise contingency plans. It encourages a realistic assessment of a situation.||– Risk analysis: Identifying potential risks and vulnerabilities in a project or strategy. – Decision-making: Evaluating the downsides and potential drawbacks of various options. – Crisis management: Assessing the potential impact of a crisis or adverse event on an organization. – Strategic planning: Identifying weaknesses and threats to a proposed strategy before implementation.|
|Yellow Hat||The Yellow Hat represents optimism, positive thinking, and opportunities. When wearing the Yellow Hat, thinkers focus on the potential benefits, advantages, and positive outcomes associated with an idea or decision.||Analyzing the Yellow Hat mode involves recognizing its role in exploring opportunities and positive aspects. Thinkers emphasize the potential benefits, solutions, and favorable outcomes that may arise from a proposal. The Yellow Hat fosters a forward-looking and optimistic perspective.||The Yellow Hat encourages a positive and constructive approach to decision-making. It promotes enthusiasm, confidence, and a “can-do” attitude. By highlighting opportunities and advantages, it inspires creativity and innovation. The Yellow Hat can motivate teams and individuals to pursue ambitious goals.||The Yellow Hat is valuable when exploring new opportunities, setting ambitious goals, or generating enthusiasm for a project. It encourages individuals to see the silver lining in situations and approach challenges with a positive mindset.||– Strategic planning: Identifying potential growth opportunities, innovations, and competitive advantages. – Goal setting: Encouraging individuals to set ambitious and inspiring goals for personal or organizational development. – Creative problem-solving: Exploring novel solutions and approaches by focusing on positive outcomes. – Team motivation: Inspiring team members by emphasizing the benefits and rewards of a challenging project.|
|Green Hat||The Green Hat represents creativity, innovation, and the generation of new ideas. When wearing the Green Hat, thinkers engage in brainstorming and creative thinking, exploring unconventional and imaginative solutions.||Analyzing the Green Hat mode involves understanding its role in stimulating creativity and innovation. Thinkers adopt an open and exploratory mindset, generating a wide range of ideas and possibilities. The Green Hat encourages the suspension of judgment and the exploration of unconventional concepts.||The Green Hat is a catalyst for creative thinking and problem-solving. It encourages individuals and teams to break free from conventional approaches and explore innovative solutions. By generating a diverse set of ideas, it expands the range of possibilities and promotes out-of-the-box thinking.||The Green Hat is indispensable when tackling complex problems that require innovative solutions. It is particularly valuable in creative industries, product development, and any situation where fresh ideas can lead to a competitive advantage.||– Brainstorming sessions: Stimulating the generation of creative ideas and solutions in a group setting. – Product development: Exploring innovative features, designs, and concepts for new products. – Marketing campaigns: Developing creative and attention-grabbing marketing strategies and advertisements. – Problem-solving: Generating unconventional solutions to challenging problems.|
|Blue Hat||The Blue Hat represents process control, organization, and overall thinking management. When wearing the Blue Hat, thinkers take on the role of the facilitator or coordinator, ensuring that the thinking process is structured and productive.||Analyzing the Blue Hat mode involves recognizing its role in orchestrating the thinking process. Thinkers in the Blue Hat role set the agenda, establish objectives, allocate thinking time, and manage the flow of discussions. The Blue Hat ensures that the other hat modes are used effectively and that the overall process is efficient.||The Blue Hat plays a crucial role in facilitating productive group discussions and decision-making processes. It provides structure and discipline to thinking sessions, ensuring that objectives are met and time is managed effectively. The Blue Hat also helps manage conflicts and keeps the discussion on track.||The Blue Hat is essential when conducting structured brainstorming sessions, problem-solving meetings, and decision-making processes involving multiple stakeholders. It helps maintain order, focus, and clarity in group discussions.||– Meeting facilitation: Leading and organizing meetings to achieve specific objectives. – Project management: Ensuring that project discussions are structured and progress is monitored. – Decision-making: Managing decision-making processes and ensuring that all perspectives are considered. – Conflict resolution: Facilitating discussions to address conflicts and reach mutually beneficial solutions.|
|Integration||The Integration aspect of the Six Thinking Hats Model involves combining the insights and perspectives gained from each hat mode into a comprehensive and balanced decision or solution. It requires synthesizing the information obtained and making informed choices that consider all aspects.||Integrating the insights from each hat mode involves a holistic assessment of the problem or decision. It requires reconciling conflicting viewpoints, leveraging strengths, addressing weaknesses, and aligning the decision with the organization’s goals and values. The Integration phase aims to create a well-rounded and well-informed outcome.||The Integration phase is where the true value of the Six Thinking Hats Model becomes evident. It ensures that decisions are comprehensive, balanced, and considerate of diverse perspectives. Integration combines the strengths of different modes while mitigating their limitations. It promotes sound decision-making and problem-solving.||Integration is the final step in the Six Thinking Hats process, where a decision or solution is reached after considering all perspectives. It is essential for achieving well-rounded and effective outcomes in various contexts, from business strategy to personal decision-making.||– Business strategy development: Combining diverse strategic perspectives to formulate a comprehensive plan. – Product design: Integrating creative ideas, technical feasibility, and market considerations to create innovative products. – Team decision-making: Synthesizing input from team members to reach a consensus on important decisions. – Personal goal setting: Balancing aspirations, practicality, and personal values to set achievable goals.|
Understanding the Six Thinking Hats model
Although each group member in a thinktank will embody multiple personalities, de Bono’s model dictates that they “assume” one personality for the duration of a session. This encourages groups to consider creative solutions or ideas they may have otherwise overlooked.
The six thinking hats of Edward de Bono’s model
Each group member should “wear” a thinking hat representing one of six key personalities. Hats should be rotated periodically to encourage a fresh perspective to problem-solving.
The six thinking hates include the:
- White hat – encompassing individuals that favor objectivity. In other words, they assess facts and figures to fill knowledge gaps.
- Red hat – or someone that prefers to consider a problem using intuition, feelings, perception, or opinion. Red hat thinkers are the opposite of white hat thinkers in that they allow subjectivity to dominate.
- Black hat – the skeptic or “Devil’s Advocate” in the group. While black hat personalities tend to be critical and pessimistic, they use these qualities to measure risk or identify potential problems with ideas.
- Yellow hat – representing those who always maintain a positive outlook on life. They tend to be optimistic and speculate according to best-case scenarios.
- Green hat – focusing on creative possibilities and new ideas. Green hat individuals are unencumbered individuals who communicate new concepts or perceptions.
- Blue hat – the mediator of the whole process who sums up everything that has been discussed. Ultimately, the blue hat considers solutions put forth by the rest of the group and decides on a course of action.
Strengths of the Six Thinking Hats model
Aside from encouraging creative problem solving, the model has many other benefits:
- Reduced conflict. Team members who use the Six Thinking Hats model are better able to empathize with other perspectives. This fosters collaboration and personal growth. For example, a pessimistic person might learn how to be more positive and creative after wearing yellow and green hats.
- Better public relations. Business plans developed under the model effectively cover all perspectives, making them more robust and resilient to public criticism or backlash.
- Provides structure. Many company brainstorming sessions lack structure and quickly become disorganized. By appointing a mediator to ensure that each perspective is heard, the six hats model facilitates productive meetings that drive the business forward.
Six Thinking Hats model example
Consider a local café that has been receiving an increasing number of complaints from customers who say they are having to wait too long for their coffee.
The café manager, John, wears the blue hat as a mediator and assembles a team of five other staff to brainstorm possible causes for the decrease in efficiency.
Let’s take a look at each of the hats below and some of the ideas each contribute to solving the problem.
- How long does it take to prepare a coffee in minutes and seconds?
- How many specific complaints is the café receiving with respect to wait time?
- What are the possible solutions and what is their impact on speed?
- How much do these solutions cost? Should a cost-benefit analysis be performed?
- What is the business overlooking that our competitors are not? Is there something we can learn from their approach?
- Can the business make fundamental changes to the way it makes coffee?
- Is there a coffee machine or new technology that could help the café streamline its processes? Could the workplace itself be made more efficient to achieve the same result?
- Perhaps it is as simple as hiring extra staff?
Yellow hat thinkers then take the ideas generated by green hat thinkers and brainstorm the potential positive implications. They endeavor to answer the following questions:
- To what extent can we improve the speed of making a coffee from a competitor’s approach?
- Could we refine it further to turn a strength into a weakness and create a competitive advantage?
- Aside from increased customer satisfaction and staff well-being, what are some of the other benefits? Why should an idea be implemented?
As noted earlier, the red hat thinker uses emotion and intuition to generate subjective ideas. They also take a look at the ideas generated by green hat thinkers and ask themselves the following questions:
- What is my gut instinct about this idea? Will the idea work? Why or why not?
- Does the idea seem prohibitively expensive or difficult to implement?
- Does the idea invoke positive emotions? If so, how can these emotions be consistently invoked among café patrons?
Black hat thinkers then take their critical, somewhat pessimistic stance to analyze both green hat and red hat ideas:
- Will a specific idea perform poorly in practice?
- Are there ways to mitigate or avoid poor performance?
- Is there evidence that suggests something could go wrong ahead of time?
- Do I have a logical reason for considering a green or red hat idea invalid?
Café manager John then sums up the ideas put forth in the discussion and provides a general overview of the situation:
- Customer complaints hinder the ability of the café to remain competitive.
- Customer satisfaction can be improved by increasing the speed with which coffee is prepared. To that end, several solutions have been devised that will also help the café increase revenue.
- Moving forward, the most effective solution is the purchase of a new coffee machine in combination with a rejig of the floor plan to increase workspace efficiency.
- The Six Thinking Hats model fosters creativity and innovation among individuals in a group by broadening their perspective.
- The Six Thinking Hats model incorporates six key perspectives, or personalities. Five are based on common dispositions while the sixth hat mediates the discussion itself.
- The Six Thinking Hats model has several benefits. It reduces conflict by encouraging group members to be more considerate of other viewpoints. The model can also help businesses manage public relations and provide structure to the ideation process.
Six Thinking Hats: Enhancing Problem-Solving Through Different Perspectives
- Origin and Purpose: Developed by psychologist Edward de Bono in 1986, the Six Thinking Hats model aims to improve problem-solving by encouraging individuals to approach challenges from various perspectives, considering emotions, facts, creativity, and other aspects.
- Concept: The model suggests that different personality types lead people to approach problems differently. Six metaphorical “thinking hats” represent distinct perspectives, allowing individuals to break free from habitual thinking patterns.
- Hat Representations:
- White Hat: Focuses on objectivity and facts, addressing knowledge gaps with data-driven insights.
- Red Hat: Emphasizes intuition, feelings, and emotions, providing a subjective perspective.
- Black Hat: Acts as the skeptic, critically evaluating potential risks and drawbacks.
- Yellow Hat: Represents optimism, assessing positive aspects and potential benefits.
- Green Hat: Encourages creativity and innovative thinking, generating new ideas.
- Blue Hat: Plays the role of the mediator, summarizing discussions and guiding the problem-solving process.
- Implementation: Individuals in a group take on specific roles by wearing a “hat,” allowing them to view the problem from a particular perspective. Rotating the hats throughout the process helps maintain fresh viewpoints.
- Benefits of the Model:
- Reduced Conflict: Encourages empathy and collaboration among team members by acknowledging diverse viewpoints.
- Structured Approach: Provides organization to brainstorming sessions, ensuring every perspective is considered.
- Enhanced Decision-Making: Offers a holistic view of the problem by analyzing it through multiple lenses.
- Improved Creativity: Fosters creativity and innovation by breaking away from habitual thinking patterns.
- Example: Problem-Solving at a Café:
- White Hat: Collects data on coffee preparation times and customer complaints.
- Green Hat: Explores new technology, workflow improvements, or hiring more staff.
- Yellow Hat: Evaluates potential benefits of faster service, competitive advantages, and increased revenue.
- Red Hat: Uses intuition to assess the feasibility and emotional impact of ideas.
- Black Hat: Critically evaluates potential problems and risks associated with proposed solutions.
- Blue Hat: Summarizes the discussion and decides on a solution, such as buying a new coffee machine and redesigning the workspace.
Connected Thinking Frameworks