What is Six Thinking Hats

If you’ve ever wondered why we are called Blue Hat Teambuilding, you’ve not only just stumbled across the answer, you have also just learned a key technique to success that many corporations worldwide already have in place.

Six Thinking Hats is a simple yet powerfully effective way of thinking. A technique that allows you to look at decisions from a number of different perspectives.

Dr Edward De Bono was a Maltese physician, phycologist, author, and the inventor of ‘Lateral thinking’. In 1986 he wrote a book which he called “Six Thinking Hats

The best part is, once you know the technique, it’s incredibly easy to put into practise and will change the way you think for life.

Read on to discover ‘how to think’ rather than ‘what to think’….

Why Six Thinking Hats Works

As identified by De Bono, “the main difficulty of thinking is confusion. We try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope and creativity all crowd in on us. It’s like juggling too many balls”.

This technique there not only teaches you how to simplify your thinking by allowing you to maintain focus on one element at a time, it forces you to move away from your habitual thinking process and gain a more holistic view of a situation. Within a team it is an essential tool to minimise conflict between team members.

Ultimately, it enables people be more focused, productive and mindfully present in their work.

In De Bono’s book, he describes the six different ways of thinking using different coloured hats to represent each one.

edward de bono six thinking hats White Hat (Facts and information) – what information is available and what are the facts?

six thinking hatsRed Hat (Feelings and Intuition) – what is your gut reaction or emotion towards the situation?

six thinking hats techniqueYellow (Positivity and Optimism) – apply logic to seek the benefits and achieve harmony

edward de bonoBlack Hat (Negatives and Discernment) – apply logic to identify reasons to be cautious

six thinking hats examplesGreen Hat (Creativity) – what are the new ideas, opportunities and how can they be improved?

six thinking hats blue hatBlue Hat Chairperson (Process Control) – think and plan what has been learned and how best to progress and move forward

Successful people often have a growth mindset where their thinking is logical and optimistic, helping them to see failures as learning curves, rather then a road block. It can be observed however, that people with this mindset can sometimes underestimate risks or don’t make contingency plans as they do not use their intuition and negative perspective to create a balanced plan. In contrast to this, people with a pessimistic or overly emotional viewpoint may make bad decisions having assessed a situation without a calm and rational approach.

By using the Six Thinking Hats technique, either yourself or within your team discussions, a well-rounded decision can be reached.

Business leadership often requires an analytical and methodical thought process before making a decision. However, the balance of emotion and reason is what allows leaders to make decisions they believe in and can follow-through with.

The Benefits of Using Six Thinking Hats

By applying the Six Thinking Hats effectively you will:

  • Minimise meeting times
  • Help improve the quality of decision making
  • Create a productive atmosphere
  • Cultivate a team that are energised and highly focussed7
  • Empower your team members to challenge the norm as well as each others ideas.
  • View problems as golden opportunities
  • Make problem solving a more efficient process
  • Evaluations a situation with clarity to define the root cause

How to combat unproductive meetings

Follow these simple steps at your next meeting to experience the positive impact of the Six Thinking Hats

  • Select someone to chair the discussion
  • Plan a process, the order of the “Thinking Hats” and time for each section – note the flow on a flipchart
  • Run the meeting – with the appropriate focus on each Thinking Hat
  • After 30 minutes stop and review
  • Complete the meeting, having agreed the Conference theme and key messages

How it works (with example timings for 1 hour meeting)

Think about the process (5 mins)

What information might you need? (10 mins)

Express how you feel about the idea (5 min)

Look at the positives of the idea (10 mins)

Look at the negatives of the idea (10 mins)

Brainstorm solutions to negatives (10 mins)

Express how you feel about the idea (5 mins)

Written by Ben Parkinson

Published on 4 November, 2021

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