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.
Understanding the Six Thinking Hats model
The Six Thinking Hats model is a creative problem-solving process that helps individuals break free of habitual ways of thinking.
In response to this tendency, de Bono identified six thinking hats which are metaphors for certain ways of thinking.
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.
- 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.
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