Six Thinking Hats method was given to us by the (as I call him, at least) father of lateral/creative thinking, a Maltese physician, psychologist, philosopher, inventor, and consultant Edward de Bono. If you read my blog or follow my love for design thinking, you would know how much changing your perspective, adopting a beginner’s mindset, and working cross-culturally matters to achieve great results. This is the basis of the hats!
We tend to approach things in certain ways that go with our general outlook on life, and our life dispositions. If you’re optimistic, you’ll see problems in an optimistic light and look at their bright sides; you might miss some potential downsides that can later cost you lots. If you tend to overthink, solutions probably don’t come easy because of that, maybe miss some opportunities. The ability to use lateral thinking, an indirect and creative approach, is the key to approach any opportunities if you want to assess fully from all perspectives.
This is where the hats come very useful! Instead of depending on the group to throw their opinion (bias on their character, upbringing, education, and so on), Six Thinking Hats provide a helpful way to make sure you see all sides of the story. Each hat represents another point of view and lets you analyze the situation via distinctive angles. By wearing a certain hat you assume that point of view and analyze the situation via this hat’s particular perspective.
So what are the different hats you could wear? Here are the colors:
WHITE HAT is all about data and facts. It looks at past trends & statistics, available evidence, current progression and trends. It analyzes this factual information to recognize differences in knowledge and try to understand them. It’s all about the real, confirmed information.
RED HAT is the gut feeling, intuition, cues. It’s emotional – it can express suspicions, fears, likes, dislikes. It’s about hunches and other unconfirmed clues. It’s feelings, it’s the anticipation of what might (or might not) happen.
YELLOW HAT is also a bit emotional, but only in a positive way. It’s an optimistic approach, always looking at the bright side of things. It analyzes all positive outcomes, probes for benefits, and looks at the (beneficial) value the situation may bring.
GREEN HAT equals creativity and endless possibilities. There is no limit, there are alternatives, new and crazy ideas. It’s the freedom of (lateral) thinking with no criticism. It’s an opportunity to be crazy and exercise the “quantity over quality” rule (which, if you’re not aware of it, read my other blog post about the QVQ rule, just click here).
BLACK HAT is the risk assessor, looking at any pessimistic outcomes of the situation. It’s the devil’s advocate, arguing for all things that can go wrong, expressing negative judgment and concerns. By this, it highlights the weaknesses of the solution and helps to avoid any downfalls. (Beware though, it’s usually overused, as being negative is way easier!)
BLUE HAT represents management – and is worn “overall” by the meeting facilitator. This hat can manage the meeting and make sure that one hat does not get priority over another. It keeps the balance, so the results and options are not skewed (f.e. when ideas are not flowing, it might switch the flow to the green hat, or when there is too much negativity, it can direct the discussion towards a yellow hat).
Knowing the hats is half the battle – you might be wondering, “well, ok, but how do I use them?” And yes, you would be right – even if there is a process, people can still get confused by it, and run around without structure.
To effectively use Six Thinking Hats is to work out a strategy that would support the outcome. There are many ways you can approach it, but remember to always start and end with a blue hat. With the blue hat on, the group can agree on the strategy, and then analyze the outcomes at the end.
Take a look at some strategies you could implement:
Quick feedback: blue -> black -> green -> white -> blue
Making a choice: blue -> white -> green -> yellow -> black -> red -> blue
Problem-solving: blue -> white -> green -> red – > yellow -> black -> blue
Performance assessment: blue -> red -> white -> yellow -> black -> green -> blue
Strategic planning: blue -> yellow -> black -> white -> blue
Process improvement: blue -> white -> yellow -> black -> green -> red -> blue
WHAT’S IN IT FOR YOU?
Now you are equipped with the full recipe for structuring full-picture meetings that might help make any decisions! In addition, you would be inclined (or, so I hope!) to explore the concept of parallel thinking – the approach of collaboration via different hats to have a structured discussion; the more you explore it, the sooner it will become a part of your daily thinking (you wouldn’t need to use the hats!).
But for now, take a look at what you may gain by using Six Thinking Hats:
- Maximize collaboration and productivity.
- Minimize counterproductive interaction/behavior.
- Implement a full-picture approach.
- Make meetings shorter and more focused.
- Eliminate conflict and heated, unstructured discussions.
- Inspire creativity, different points of view.