Six thinking hats

by Wojciech Adam Koszek   ⋅   Jan 1, 2013   ⋅   Menlo Park, CA

I was very sceptical, but I've played with some exercises in my head, and I believe there is something to the theory of coldly analysing, gather ideas, then colding analysing, then turning feelings back and criticising etc. The idea of a book which gives you hints to get more creative is something I liked. Looking back, I don't regret having read it.

I didn’t really know what to expect out of this book, but in general my understanding is it’s a directed way for generating common voice and opinions on particular case/problem.

You lead the meeting between multiple people in a directed way (which actually can be called “blue hat”) and have people talk about the same case from different perspective.

De Bono gave an example of a group of people looking at the big, square-shaped house. Looking together at the same wall from the same perspective can lead to much better perception of the building. Often it can lead to agreements on what we see, and how we perceive certain walls. This is as opposed to having uncoordinated effort of seeing things: people alone walking around the building for 10 minutes and meeting later to discuss what they saw.

So leading the group is basically about management of hats: you explicitly request from a group to consider the case from certain perspective (hats)

Hats are:

  • white – cold facts
  • red – feelings
  • black – negation; critical view
  • yellow – acceptance: positive view
  • green – creative view; lateral thinking
  • blue – conclusion (management of all previous hats)

Even though blue hat is presented as the last one, my understanding is that this hat should be implicitly requested at the beginning of the session, when the leader asks members to collect thoughts. De Bono points out order of “hats” is arbitrary, and multiple successful applications are possible.

Next hats follow, and my understanding is that you’re not really supposed to question things said. You write them down, unless the category (hat) has been wrongly identified, in which case certain options are postponed till the hat gets switched to the right one.

White hat collects common knowledge on the problem. You mention and collect stuff which is known to be true; which is the fact. There’s no speculation, no negation at this stage. If thinking was a math, this stage would be called “Given data”.

Red had represent feelings. Feeling aren’t backed by anything. This is just internal expression on the particular problem given by the member of the group. There’s no further questions asked.

Black hat represents negative view on things. It’s protective perspective–you point out bad features of the solution; disadvantages of following certain path. You express what you feel isn’t right and what is suspicious or plain wrong.

Yellow hat is an opposite of the black hat. You point out good things about given solution.

Green hat is the creative hat. You steer your mental effort toward creative solutions in the hope of coming up with new ideas. There’s no discussion on this stage, and no criticism of ideas given. You simply write them down. The whole method seems to be a directed brain-storming session, where instead of random order of expressing opinions, the whole activity is coordinated. This may lead to less frustration and more understanding what is expected out of the individual members of the meetings, I believe.

Haven’t tried that method as of yet. However the idea of thinking in 6 categories is appealing to me. I’m going to try to explore this concept by myself first, maybe with writing down things to consider and will see how it goes. Opinions on the method are welcome too.

Author cites some spectacular results in the industry world…

“One Minute Millionaire”
“Facebook Paper and Copyright screens”

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About the author: I'm Wojciech Adam Koszek. I like software, business and design. Poland native. In Bay Area since 2010.   More about me