de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats

Dr. Edward de Bono is a world-known expert in creative thinking. He has published many books that introduce new techniques for facilitating creative and productive thinking in the workplace. Multinational corporations and indeed governments of countries have used his expertise to promote more effective creative thinking and decision making.

The 6 Thinking Hats is one such technique.

You may find it useful to help in group work, both in this course and in the workplace. The main idea is to have the group only “wear one hat at a time” when considering a problem. The wearing of the hat is metaphorical. At any one time, everyone will wear the same colour, in other words, look at the problem at hand from only one perspective, the perspective indicated by the hat colour.


The Hats


White Hat

When you think of white, think of neutral. de Bono has categorized information as a neutral subject. The white hat has to do with data and information.


What information do we have here?

What information is missing?

What information would we like to have?

How are we going to get the information?


When you ask for white hat thinking at a meeting you are asking people to forget about proposals and arguments and to concentrate directly on the information. What information is needed, what is available, and how it can be obtained.


Red Hat

When you think of red, think of fire and passion. The red hat allows people to show their emotions on a subject, their gut feelings. People don’t need to justify their statements. It is often important to get feelings out in the open, rather than have people at a meeting have hidden agendas, feelings, or misgivings. The red hat allows these feelings to be expressed, to come out in the open.


This is what I feel about the project…

My instincts tell me this won’t work.

I like this, I don’t like that.

The idea is that these statements are known to be “feelings” and nothing more. Once they are stated, the meeting can move on to a more constructive approach.


Black Hat

When you think of black, think of negative, or caution. The black hat is for critical judgment. It points out what cannot be done.

The hope is that the black hat role will prevent us from making mistakes.


Yellow Hat

When you think of yellow, think of the sun and sunny, positive thoughts. The yellow hat role is for discussing ONLY the positive view of problems and solution possibilities. The yellow hat looks for benefits (and feasibility), but must be logically based, not intuitive like the red hat.

We are often better with the black hat. We are good at seeing what won’t work, as opposed to what will. Forcing ourselves to look only at the positive aspects can be very valuable, since otherwise we don’t always move forward.


Green Hat

When you think of green, think of plants and growth. The green hat is for new ideas, for creativity, for new alternative solutions.


Could this be done in another way?

Might there be another explanation?

Does anyone have another idea? (See brainstorming)


Blue Hat

When you think of blue, think of the sky and an overview. The blue hat is the hardest one to understand. It deals with controlling the thinking process. The blue hat is often “given” to one person, who controls what hat will be “worn”, hence controlling the type of thinking being used.

The different colors don’t always follow in the same order. Depending on the situation, and the mix of people, it might be better to let people get their negative thoughts out first, or their intuitive sense, and then use yellow or green to move ahead.

The blue hat comments on the thinking being used, asks for conclusions, decisions, etc. The blue hat can move from person to person, or can be a chairperson.

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