Do you hold meetings where you need to develop solutions that aren’t immediately obvious? Do you find yourself needing to remember to think of other perspectives? Dr Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats could be just what you’re looking for. This is a way of applying different thinking styles to come up with a better all rounded outcome.

Have you been in a meeting where there is real collaboration? Different people are adding different perspectives that lead to a better outcome with more robust thinking. The best – right? However, we’re not always lucky enough to be in meetings where there is this range of perspectives. Sometimes, everyone seems to have a similar point of view which always lead to the same destination.

The Six Thinking Hats technique could be a way to help open up different though processes. In turn, you could find your discussion takes a different route and you get a better solution.

What are the Six Thinking Hats?

The Six Thinking Hats come in a range of colours that is just right for the new season! J Each colour has a different thinking style or perspective. By using all of these different styles, you can open up the full range of the group’s thought power. Each hat can give each person the permission to say things that they might be too reserved to say otherwise.

So, what are the different coloured hats and how should you think for each?

Blue Hat

The Blue Thinking Hat is the owner of the thinking process. They should ensure that everyone stays in character through the process plus make sure that no one person takes over the conversation. They are the ones that should be documenting next steps and actions during the discussion. This is the facilitator role.

They should also contribute to the conversation thinking about the process. Things should work in a systematic and logical way. There should always be a clear process and procedure. You love order.

Red Hat

The Red Hat is all about emotion. If you’re wearing the Red Hat, you should be thinking about feelings. Go with your gut instinct or your intuition. Express your emotions. What do you love? What do you fear or hate? Ask others in the group to share their emotions too.

White Hat

The White Hat stands for truth in the world. You need data and analysis to have fair opinions. You need to think about the facts and information that you know to drive output. Don’t let any assumptions get through and work out where you need more information or data. You should be objective and fair in every viewpoint.

Yellow Hat

The Yellow Hat speaks for the good in the world. Think optimistically. Look on the bright side of life. With the Yellow Hat on, you’re always thinking of the benefits and positives. Search for what is valuable in every idea. Be constructive and build on each concept to improve it.

Black Hat

On the other hand, the Black Hat has a negative and cautious mindset. Think about what could go wrong – after all, it probably will. Think about the challenges and difficulties along the way. Play the devil’s advocate and pick holes in the options and solutions presented.

Green Hat

Finally, the owner of the Green Hat is all about new ideas. Think creatively. Open your mind to new possibilities and opportunities. Counter the black hat’s negativity with alternative ways of doing things. Unleash your innovative inner self and go wild with crazy ideas!

How to Use the Six Thinking Hats?

Firstly, don’t worry…. You won’t need to mess up your hairstyle for using the Six Thinking Hats. The hats can be purely metaphorical. Although, real coloured hats will certainly add more creativity and energy into your meeting and will help bring new thinking to the group.

I remember when I first applied this technique, I found one of the hats really tricky to apply at first but others were fine with it. I was not used to using this part of my mind but by concentrating on it, I soon became more comfortable in thinking in this way.

As such, using the Six Thinking Hats technique can also help each individual to think more freely and more widely in a longer term perspective. This can be useful if you’re trying come up with new ideas – read more about generating new ideas.

Here are 3 ways that you can use to apply the Six Thinking Hats.

Take it in turns

You want to assign a different coloured thinking hat to everyone. Their goal for the next period of time is to think in that style. They need to only add into the conversation in a way that is in line with the thinking style they’ve been assigned.

After a few minutes, swap hats and continue the discussion with the new thinking styles. Swapping hats is an important point in my view. As with actual hats, each of the Six Thinking Hats will not suit everyone.

Cycle through each of the Six Thinking Hats

You can use the Six Thinking Hats to come up with a fully rounded view of the situation. You can also use this technique to think more widely by yourself or in a smaller meeting. Cycle through each of the Six Thinking Hats in turn to come up with many different viewpoints.

Grab a hat to have a say

Allow the meeting participants to self-select and choose the hat they are wearing at any moment in time. Have tokens for each Thinking Hat in the middle of the table and allow each person to take a colour and have their say. This is a free flowing session with everyone taking a range of thinking styles. It may be easier to permanently assign a blue hat owner for consistency and to ensure no next steps are missed.

Other Ideas to Think Differently: Six Thinking Hats with a Twist

Whilst Dr de Bono’s technique is well versed, you can take the concept and apply it in different ways to get a wider view of the picture. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.

Different customer or colleague avatars

You could identify different customers as your “Six Thinking Hats”. Perhaps you want to view your retail customers’ shopping trip from different perspectives. Look at the situation from the viewpoint of a single mother’s at one moment, then an older couple the next. What works and excites you? What confuses you or makes you scared or fearful?

Do you have a set of customer avatars that your organisation uses already? Perfect – use that. If not, aim for a range of ideal customer demographics. Aim for about 6 and consider these aspects:

  • What age are they?
  • Are they male or female?
  • Consumer or business shopper?
  • How sensitive are they to price?
  • Or quality?
  • Other unique aspects – children, disability, shopping missions

This is a great way to build a customer experience that is focused on your ideal customers.

Different elements of the project

You could also look at situations from different perspectives of the project.

  • Benefits – how will this deliver value to customers or the business?
  • Costs – what is the true investment needed?
  • Plan – how will the timeline be affected?
  • Risk management – what could go wrong
  • Stakeholders – who needs to have a say and what would it be?

Put this into Practice

One of the best elements of Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is the simplicity to start using it. You can just get started straight away. It’s easy to add into a group discussion and needs only a little introduction to set the scene. So, go and get started now!

Share this article with your network on social media – or sent the link to a contact by email.

Read more about the Six Thinking Hats from the de Bono Group.

project management expert Oliver BanksAbout the Author

Oliver Banks is an expert at delivering retail change projects and programmes. He’s led and managed many different types of retail projects, working with a variety of stakeholders. Oliver loves the opportunity to improve and innovate. This brings together his engineering background, his curiosity and his passion for making things better. It was the Red Hat that I struggled with at first if you’re wondering.

project management expert Oliver Banks

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