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6 Thinking Hats (de Bono’s)

Brief Description (including a definition if possible)
This method was designed by Edward de Bono and is a group discussion tool which helps to plan thinking processes in a coherent and effective way. It uses the idea that there are six distinct directions in which the brain can think and be challenged, represented by six imaginary coloured hats. Naturally, when we think, we use a mix of these, but the six thinking hats method asks us to artificially adopt a single direction at a time, as a means of fostering productive discussion. By encouraging parallel thinking, it minimizes conflict that can occur when individuals with different thinking styles enter into discussion.

The six hats, and directions of thinking are:

Type of thinking
Focus on
Objective, neutral thinking in terms of facts, numbers and information.
The data available.
Emotional thinking, with judgements, suspicions and intuitions.
Looks at problems using intuition, gut reaction and emotion.
Black hat
Negative thinking, sees risks and thinks about why something won’t work. Cautious, conservative.
Tries to see why things might not work.
Optimistic thinking, sees the bright side of the situation. Seeks to identify benefits and create harmony.
Sees the benefits of the decision and the value in it.
Creative, freewheeling thinking, seeks alternatives. Little criticism of ideas.
Develops creative solutions to a problem.
Meta ‘manager’ thinking. Looks at the big picture.
Keeps an overview of what is necessary. What are we thinking? What is the goal?

When to use

  • Framing
  • Gathering and organizing
  • Analysing

How to use

  • The facilitator should define the subject of discussion and explain the timing.
  • To avoid conflict and promote progress, everyone in a discussion group should play the same role at the same time. Therefore you should divide the group into 6 groups, where each group plays one role. One individual takes on the role of documenting the key points of the discussion.
  • When switching hats, everyone changes to the different mode of thinking, so as to tap into their collective knowledge. This eliminates egos and has the potential to dramatically reduce the amount of time spent in meetings.
  • Ask groups to report to plenary discussion either after each hat, or at the end of the entire discussion.
  • You may wish only to address the issue from one perspective with one hat. Alternatively, a sequence of all hats may be used.
  • Groups can either remain together throughout the sequence (in which case they may choose the sequence of hats), or can rotate with each change (in which case all groups must adopt the same sequence).

Resources (add your resources)

six_hats.txt · Last modified: 2018/07/08 15:21 (external edit)