Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats


A summary of the six hats as described in Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats book .
Subject: Organizational Behavior
Source: Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

The biggest enemy of thinking is complexity.

Two main purposes to the six thinking hats:

  1. Simplify thinking by allowing a thinker to deal with one thing at a time
  2. Allow a switch in thinking

The six hats method makes thinking a two-stage process. The first stage is to make a map. The second stage is to choose a route on the map. It is the very artificiality of the hats which is their greatest value. They establish rules for the game of thinking.

The Six Thinking Hats are:

  1. White Hat – pure facts, figures and information
  2. Imagine a computer that gives the facts and figures for which it is asked. The computer is neutral and objective. It does not offer interpretations or opinions. When wearing the white hat, the thinker should imitate the computer.

    In practice, there is a two-tier system of information. The first tier contains checked and proven facts. The second tier contains facts that are believed to be true but have not yet been fully checked.

    There is a spectrum of “likelihood” ranging from always true to never true. In between there are usable levels. Information in these levels can be put out under the white hat – provided the appropriate “frame” (e.g. “by and large”, “occasional”) is used.

  3. Red Hat – emotions and feelings, also hunch and intuition
  4. Wearing the red hat allows the thinker to say: “This is how I feel about the matter.”

    The red hat legitimizes emotions and feelings as an important part of thinking.

    When a thinker is using the red hat there should never be any attempt to justify the feelings or to provide a logical basis for them.

    The red hat covers two broad types of feeling. Firstly, there are the ordinary emotions as we know them. Secondly, there are the complex judgments that go into such types of “feeling” as hunch, intuition, sense, taste, aesthetic feeling and other not-visibly-justified types of feeling.

  5. Black Hat – devil’s advocate, negative judgment, why it will not work
  6. Black hat thinking is specifically concerned with negative assessment. The black hat thinker points out what is wrong, incorrect and in error. The black hat thinker points out how something does not fit experience or accepted knowledge.

    Black hat thinking is not argument and should never be seen as such. It is an objective attempt to put negative elements onto the map.

    Black hat thinking should not be used to cover negative indulgence or negative feelings which should make use of the red hat.

    In the case of new ideas the yellow hat should always be used before the black hat.

  7. Yellow Hat – sunshine, brightness and optimism, positive, constructive, opportunity
  8. Yellow hat thinking is positive and constructive. It is concerned with positive assessment just as black hat thinking is concerned with negative assessment.

    Yellow hat thinking is concerned with operacy and with “making things happen.” Effectiveness is the aim of yellow hat constructive thinking. It can be speculative and opportunity seeking. It also permits visions and dreams.

    Yellow hat thinking is not concerned with mere positive euphoria (red hat) nor directly with creating new ideas (green hat).

  9. Green Hat – fertile, creative, plants springing from seeds, movement, provocation, innovation, new ideas
  10. The green hat is for creative thinking. Ideally both thinker and listener should be wearing green hats.

    The search for alternatives is a fundamental aspect of green hat thinking. There is a need to go beyond the known and the obvious and the satisfactory.

    In green hat thinking the idiom of movement replaces that of judgement. The thinker seeks to move forward from an idea in order to reach a new idea.

  11. Blue Hat – cool and control, orchestra conductor, thinking about thinking
  12. The blue hat is the “control” hat. The blue hat thinker organizes the thinking itself (“thinking about thinking”). The blue hat thinker calls for the use of the other hats.

    Blue hat thinking defines the problems and shapes the questions. It is responsible for summaries, overviews and conclusions.
    Blue hat thinking stops argument and insists on the “map” type of thinking. It enforces discipline.

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