Six Thinking Hats
“Six Thinking Hats” by Edward De Bono
First off, I really enjoyed this book. It is a short read, and I’ve already applied its methods to discuss issues with my wife about how we plan to handle the newest addition to our family — baby Madelyn!
The Six Hats method helps you isolate the ways you or a group of people think about a problem or idea. Its primary value is its ability to isolate “kinds of thoughts” through the analogy of “wearing different hats”
Each hat represents a different way of thinking:
- WHITE: neutral and objective; only concerned with facts and figures
- RED: your emotional view; no need to justify them
- BLACK: careful and cautious; the risk accessor; negative assessment
- YELLOW: positive assessment; considers logical and far-out best case scenarios
- GREEN: the creative view for generating, or trying to think about, novel ideas
- BLUE: organizes the thinking itself; enforces how, when, and why other hats are used
When considering a problem or thought, an individual or group can “wear” one of the hats or wear sequences of hats in parallel. But, there are some important rules which govern how the hats should be used:
- Only wear one hat at-a-time; this also applies to groups
- Hats are not categories of people; anyone is capable of wearing any of the hats
- When appropriate, anyone can put on the blue hat to ensure the method is being respected
- Thoughts need not be argued or defended while wearing hats; however, asking for clarification is fine
- Sometimes a thought may have qualities of multiple hats… that is okay so long as the thought was generated through the lens of the currently worn hat
- Decision making processes exist outside the Six Hats method since typically the path forward is clear after using the method
- Every thought doesn’t have to be governed by a hat; the hats are simply a tool and guide for thinking
As the hats are being worn, the objective is to “plot” thoughts and ideas onto a metaphorical map. When filled, the map should contain all the facts, pros, cons, risks, benefits, opportunities, etc. that exist for the problem, thought, or idea. The book summarizes it like this…
After all, when we make decisions on our own, we go through more or less the same process (pros, cons, feelings, facts)… So what was hitherto carried out in an individual’s mind is now done systematically and in the open.
Also, as a reference for myself and others, here are some of the prompts used by the book to demonstrate how the method could be used in practice:
- WHITE: I don’t want your guesses on what would happen if we lowered our trans-Atlantic fare to two hundred and fifty dollars. I want your white hat thinking.
- RED: My feeling is that boredom is responsible for much juvenile crime.
- BLACK: I see a danger in overpricing our wines because many countries around the world are now producing excellent wines.
- YELLOW: If fuel prices fall, big cars will become a more attractive option for consumers.
- GREEN: Shoppers usually pay for goods they buy. Let us reverse that. What if the store pays the customer.
- BLUE: Just hold off your black hat thinking for a moment because I am not satisfied with the ideas we have. Let’s have some green hat thinking at this point.