Thinking is something we all do naturally, but do we all do it well? According to Edward de Bono, we need to teach thinking as a skill, so that people have tools to use in order to think better. In 1985, de Bono published Six Thinking Hats, which outlines an effective way to become a better thinker using the concept of "thinking hats." The hats allow a problem to be viewed from six specific viewpoints, which allow people to see different pluses, minuses and interesting ideas. As you work through the Six Thinking Hats, you (or your team) can build a map of the information that is relevant to the problem, then decide what route you want to take in order to solve the problem.
There is only one problem with this method — everyone on your team needs to understand it and be able to use it. Therefore, like other skills, there needs to be some training upfront, whether its by reading the book or learning through example. Using the Six Thinking Hats won’t come naturally, but it can used naturally once learned.
Here’s a quick look at the Six Thinking Hats. If you find that you want to know more, you can likely borrow de Bono’s book at the library, there are copies available from some online booksellers (e.g.,Amazon.com, and copies at used bookstores (which is where I got mine).
The White Hat — The white hat offers only facts when it looks at the problem. Words or phrases associated with the white hat are:
- Checkable facts
A person using the white hat can offer the opinions of others, but cannot offer his/her own opinions (that happens elsewhere).
The Red Hat — The red hat offers pure emotion when looking at the problem. In being emotional, the red hat does not need to be logical or consistent. Words or phrases associated with the red hat are:
The Black Hat – The black hat sees negatives when it looks at the problem. However, it is not emotionally negative. It doesn’t try to solve, the problem but show risks or even errors in thinking. Words or phrases associated with the black hat are:
- Logical negative
- Speculative negative
The Yellow Hat — The yellow hat sees positives when it looks at the problem and comes
up with positive ideas or solutions, but not creative solutions (that
is done elsewhere). Words or phrases associated with the yellow hat are:
- Logical positive
- Speculative positive
- Focused on benefits
The Green Hat — The green hat sees creative solutions when it looks at a problem. Words or phrases associated with the yellow hat are:
- New ideas
- "Crazy" ideas
- New concepts
The Blue Hat — The blue hat is the conductor or choreographer. It helps the group maintain focus and use the other hats effectively. When possible, it provides direction, adds comments/observations, and defines/redefines the problem.
Who wears the hats? As you read about the blue hat, you may have wondered who wears each hat? There are no assigned roles. People may be asked to "put on" a different hat during a problem-solving session in order to look at the problem from a different point of view. The leader may be the one most likely to wear the blue hat, but anyone can wear it, if it is necessary.
Wear? Yes, I keep using the word "wear." Figuratively speaking, of course. Yet I think it could be helpful to have cards with the different colors as reminders of the different hats. Perhaps the front could be the color and the back could have the qualities listed for that hat.
de Bono tells us that we don’t need to be in a group to use the Six Thinking Hats. Therefore, I’m looking forward to using it with myself when I have problems to solve! I suspect that the map I will build using the Six Thinking Hats will lead to a well thought out solution.