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26. Six Thinking Hats (de Bono)




Description and Purpose:

This is a simple framework from Edwards de Bono which provides an alternative to the traditional Western adversarial way of thinking. This framework provides a creative and constructive way of assessing options from different perspectives, and is suitable in many different cultures.


There are six imaginary thinking hats. Only one is used at any one time. When that hat is used, everybody in the group wears that hat. Everybody is now thinking about the problem in the manner determined by the hat, so consideration goes ahead in parallel, and in a timely way without the usual divergence. The six thinking hats are:

The White Hat
The white hat indicates an exclusive focus on information. What information is available? What information is needed? How are we going to find the information we need?
Think of white paper and computer print-out.

The Red Hat
The red hat allows free expression of feelings, intuition, hunches and emotions – with no need for apology or explanation. Feelings are expressed without justification. Intuition should be given free rein, and never decried or disregarded.
Think of fire and warm.

The Yellow Hat
The yellow hat is the yellow logical, positive hat. Under the yellow hat the seeker seeks out the values and benefits. The thinker thinks out how the idea can be made workable and put into practice.
Think of sunshine and optimism.

The Green Hat
The green hat is the creative hat. Under the green hat we put forward alternatives. We seek out new ideas. We modify and change suggestions. We generate possibilities. We use movement and energy to produce new ideas.
Think of vegetartion, growth, energy, shoots, etc.

The Blue Hat
The blue hat is the control hat. The blue hat is concerned with the management of the thinking process. The conductor of an orchestra conducts the process, and gets the most out of the musicians. The ring-master in a circus makes sure that proceedings are ordered and in sequence. The blue hat is for the thinking process itself.
Think of blue as sky and overview.

The blue hat defines the issue or problem, and sets up the sequence of other hats to be used, and ensures that the rules of the six hats framework are followed.

Using the Hats
Using the six hats framework in the context of strategic choice, the blue hat can be used to consider the options at hand and to establish a process using the most useful thinking hats.

It often helps to start with a blue hat, and to end with a blue hat. But the rest of the process can be built. It is also possible to change it during the process, in order to deal with issues that arise.

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