Edward de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’

Significance of the colours

The following borrows from the author’s authorized web site.  (see https://www.edwddebono.com/)

Edward de Bono’s techniques have demonstrated success in helping individuals and groups ‘think out of the box’. They are especially useful in difficult situations. Personally, I have found his earlier works on lateral thinking to be both stimulating and incredible practical. I am still learning ‘6 hats’. As you read through the article, it is easy to see how they support role-playing, focusing attention, and rules consensus. They permit us to break out of our experience. In his book on 6 hats, de Bono mentions that there is some brain chemistry research which shows that our thinking patterns get forged by our experiences. These techniques help exercise and create new neural pathways.

This expansion of his lateral thinking techniques encourages parallel thinking towards consensus. Each participant is responsible for putting on each hat and contributing her / his ideas and analysis from that perspective. For example, during a ‘yellow hat’ session, everyone presents a perspective on ‘why it will work’, despite the fact that individually, the person may be convinced it can’t. Through the disciplined exercise of multiple perspectives, agreement on analysis and action recognizes and solicits differences. The process of synthesizing and choosing among the emerging options within this framework, almost always results in better choices with reduced tension.

The White Hat.
In this mode thinking is concerned exclusively with information. Examine the information, have we got all the pertinent information? Is the information complete? Do we need more information? How are we going to get more information? It is rare that all the information is available or as much information as one would like is available. This is no excuse for not doing White Hat and subsequent thinking if only to test whether the ‘missing’ information is crucial. White is neutral and ‘pure’ – pure facts and figures. White Hat thinking does not include what one believes to be true.

The Red Hat.
Red is often associated with danger but can also be associated with warmth. In the Six Hats Context ‘red’ is for feelings, emotions, gut feeling, intuition. These are personal feelings which do not have to be justified and it would be wrong to require justification. This process is important and needs to be addressed and got out of the way otherwise it will hang like a cloud over the discussions.

The Black Hat.
This is the ‘caution’ Hat. It is the most widely used hat and the most useful. Without the Black Hat thinking would be totally unrealistic and could lead to disaster. There is no scope for argument within this framework. The black hat points out the difficulties, dangers, problems, ‘illegalities’, faults, weaknesses etc. However, the black hat must not be overused – particularly as it is most akin to our traditional way of thinking from which we are breaking free. Unlike the red hat logical reasons must be given for doubts. It is the ‘judgmental’ hat – judges wear black.

The Yellow Hat.
While the black hat would be logical negative the yellow hat is logical positive. Yellow for sunshine, for hope, for brightness, for optimism. The Yellow Hat looks for benefit and value, for feasibility – can this work? Is it realistic or could it be realistic? Perhaps the yellow hat is less natural to survival than the black hat and as such needs more thinking effort and practice without ‘going over the top’. It creates concrete proposals and permits visions and dreams.

The Green Hat.
This is the ‘creativity’ hat. Green for plant growth, for branching, for natural energy, for fertility. Unlike the yellow hat the green hat does not need to have a logical basis. There needs to be a deliberate creative effort for ideas whether or not modifications or variations or existing ideas. It allows for new ideas and suggestions – their value can be checked at a later stage. …

The Blue Hat.
Blue is for control, for overview. Think of the sky. Blue is cool. The thinker or thinkers can stand back and review and decide the thinking that needs to take place – in other words: thinking about thinking!

The blue hat is concerned with ‘process control’, it defines the focus for thinking and ‘asks’ for summaries and conclusions. The agenda for thinking or the order in which the other hats are to be used is set in the blue hat thinking. Within the blue hat comments can be made about the thinking taking place in the other hats. The blue hat remains open while the other hats open and close with no more than one open at any time.”