The Six Thinking Hats as a tool for creativity and innovation

The Six Thinking Hats for creative problem solving

1. Author

Edward de Bono (born May 19, 1933, Malta), was a British psychologist and writer, physician and inventor, founder of many creative techniques, expert and consultant in the field of creative thinking and innovation. A pioneer in the development of creative abilities and the application of methods to enhance creativity.
Six Thinking Hats was created by Edward de Bono, and published in his 1985 book of the same name.

2. Description

Six Thinking Hats is a powerful technique for creative problem solving using various modes of thinking and looking at decision-making from different points of view.
The six hats of different colours represent six different modes of thinking, points of view and are directions to think.
The thinker should put on or take off one of these hats to indicate the type of thinking being used. It forces him to move outside his habitual thinking style and to look at things from a number of different perspectives.
It is also a powerful problem solving technique in group situations, as everyone explores the situation from each perspective at the same time. This heuristic approach allows individuals within a group to think and speak in one mode at a time, through role-playing or adopting that perspective.
Everyone is able to contribute to the exploration without denting egos and habitual thinking styles, just playing the chosen role.
People can contribute under any hat even though they initially support the opposite view.

3. Main functions

1. Six Thinking Hats presents an efficient method for problem solving, that can help a business or a group of people, increase their creativity, and make better decisions. These hats work together and can help you formulate effective solutions and new ideas. Encourage creative, parallel, lateral thinking and full-spectrum thinking.
2. It’s a critical meeting facilitation tool. It fosters collaboration, and improves communication, team productivity and creativity. Improve communication, avoid debate, and separate ego from performance.
3. It is an efficient and excellent tool used to maximize and organize a person’s thoughts and enhance personal creativity and innovation.

4. Methodological and theoretical grounds

“The six thinking hats” is one of the most fruitful techniques of Lateral Thinking that is used to change perception and generate new creative ideas.
The method is based on human brain activity, which thinks in a number of distinct ways. Switching to another type of thinking is symbolized by the act of putting on a coloured hat, either literally or metaphorically.
The Six Hats System is not directly a creative technique, but it makes time and space for creativity.
This method helps to encourage Parallel Thinking and full-spectrum thinking to separate ego from performance.
There are two purposes for the Six Thinking Hats. The first purpose is to simplify thinking. Focusing on one part of the problem at a time becomes less overwhelming for people. The second purpose is to allow a switch in thinking.
“the broad thinking hat role is broken down into six different character roles, represented by six differently coloured thinking hats…You choose which of the six hats to put on at any one moment. You put that hat on and then play the role defined by that hat…When you change thinking hats you have to change roles”.
Every person has the opportunity to switch their hats so they can see the different sides of their problem.

White hat – neutral
think of white paper

Facts, figures, information needs and gaps.
With this thinking hat, you focus on the available data. Look at the information that you have, analyze past trends, and see what you can learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge, and try to either fill them or take account of them.
“I think we need some white hat thinking at this point…” means Let’s drop the arguments and proposals, and look at the data base.”
Information – What do we know? What information do we want? What do we need?
Red hat – fire, warmth Feelings, emotion, intuition, hunches.
This covers intuition, feelings and emotions. The red hat allows the thinker to put forward an intuition without any need to justify it.
The red hat gives full permission to a thinker to put forward his or her feelings on the subject at the moment.
Wearing the Red Hat, you look at problems using your intuition, gut reaction, and emotion. Also, think about how others could react emotionally. Try to understand the responses of people who do not fully know your reasoning.
Black hat
caution, legality, judgment, morality
This is the hat of judgment and caution. It is not in any sense an inferior or negative hat.
The black hat is used to point out why a suggestion does not fit the facts, the available experience, the system in use, or the policy that is being followed.
Using Black Hat thinking, look at a decision’s potentially negative outcomes. Try to see why it might not work. This is important because it highlights the weak points in a plan. It allows you to eliminate them and alter them.
Black Hat thinking helps to make your plans more resilient. It can also help you to spot fatal flaws and risks before you embark on a course of action.
Yellow hat
sunshine, positive, optimism, benefits
Brightness, and optimism; positive and constructive; opportunity.
This hat helps you to think positively. It is the optimistic viewpoint that helps you to see all the benefits of the decision and the value in it. Yellow Hat thinking helps you to keep going when everything looks gloomy and difficult.
This is the logical positive. Why something will work and why it will offer benefits. It can be used in looking forward to the results of some proposed action, but can also be used to find something of value in what has already happened.
Green hat growth
fertile and creative; movement, provocation, and possibilities
New ideas, new slants, options, opportunities.
The Green Hat represents creativity. This is where you develop creative solutions to a problem. It is a freewheeling way of thinking, in which there is little criticism of ideas.
This is the hat of creativity, alternatives, proposals, what is interesting, provocations and changes.
Blue hat
sky, cool and controlled; conductor of an orchestra; thinking about thinking
Overview, control of the process, agenda, next step, action plans, and conclusions.
This hat represents process control. It is the hat worn by leaders. When facing difficulties because ideas are running dry, they may direct activity into Green Hat thinking. When contingency plans are needed, they will ask for Black Hat thinking.
This is the overview or process control hat. It looks not at the subject itself but at the ‘thinking’ about the subject. “Putting on my blue hat, I feel we should do some more
the blue hat is concerned with metacognition.

5. Main rules

1. The hats must never be used to categorize individuals, even though their behaviour may seem to invite this. People can contribute under any hat even though they initially support the opposite view.
2. The individual draws on specific modes of thinking at any one time.
3. When done in-group, everybody wears the same hat at the same time.
4. putting on and taking off the hats is essential.
5. Each hat must be used for a limited time only.

Group and individual activity
The method may be used in groups and promotes fuller input from more people.
Hats can be used individually – as symbols to request a particular type of thinking.

6. Procedure and Basic stages

The Six Thinking Hats method can be used in a sequence to first explore the problem, then develop a set of solutions, and finally choose a solution through a critical examination of the solution set.
1. A team of six participants is formed (the number can be less and more, in addition, the method can be implemented individually.
2. The host, starting the process, introduces all participants to the general principles of the method and formulates the problem to be solved.
3. The participants, under the control of the leader, alternately try on hats of various colours, examining the problem from various positions.
4. You can work with specially made hats, it is possible to wear them virtually.
5. Ideas are expressed freely, as during a brainstorming session and are fixed on the board.
6. At the conclusion of group parallel thinking, the facilitator should take stock and provide the participants with the results.

The sequences of hats or programs
1. The order in which the hats are worn is determined by the leader in accordance with the nature of the problem, as well as internal and external conditions. The order of putting on hats can be arbitrary and can be built according to a certain algorithm.
2. During the session, participants try on all six hats using a different sequence, which allows them to determine the most optimal sequence for solving the problem.
3. Sometimes it is possible to put together a formal sequence of hats in order to think productively about some matter.
The actual order of the sequence will vary with the situation.

Typically, a project will begin with an extended white hat action, as facts are assembled.
A leader should formally facilitate the process. He can ask a whole group to adopt a hat for a limited period of time. For example, at a meeting, someone might suggest: “What we need here is three minutes of yellow hat thinking.”
The participant can put one on or take one off to indicate the type of thinking that is being used. Thereafter each hat is used for a few minutes at a time only.

The sequences of hats or programs encompass and structure the thinking process toward a distinct goal.

1. At first, the participant uses the white hat and analyzes the numbers and facts.
2. Then he puts on the black hat and looks for negative points.
3. After that, the participant takes the yellow hat and seeks positive points in the problem.
4. The participant generates new ideas in the green hat
5. Then he expresses his emotional reactions in the red one.
6. Finally, the results are summarized in the blue hat.

With a new matter, the sequence might be:
1. White Hat (to get information, facts and figures);
2. Green Hat (the creative side: for ideas and proposals);
3. Yellow Hat (the positive view);
4. Black Hat (the “devil’s advocate»: on each alternative);
5. Red Hat (the emotional view: to assess feelings at this point);
6. Blue Hat (the organizing view: to decide what thinking to do next).

The order of thinking can progress in the following way:
1. The blue hat defines and outlines the problem under question. It then guides the other thinking hats through the thinking process.
2. The white hat collects all the facts, data, and statistics related to the problem.
3. The red hat intuitively reflects on the solutions.
4. The black hat quickly pinpoints problems, flaws, and limitations.
5. The yellow hat brings to light logical ideas and contingency plans that help to solve these problems.
6. The green hat then takes these ideas and enhances them using its out-of-the-box thinking mentality.
In discussing a well-known proposal, the sequence might run: red, yellow, black, green (to overcome the negative points), white, and then blue.

7. Advantages

1. Using the Six Thinking Hats may also provide better solutions to problems because they will go over different alternatives.
2. The method provides an opportunity to draw on modes of thinking other than their preferred mode of thinking, for example, positive, negative, or intuitive.
3. Decisions made using this technique can be sounder and more resilient than would otherwise be the case.
4. The method provides an opportunity to gain clear, detailed, and relevant feedback, and also to get other points of view they had not considered.
5. Using this technique a group can evaluate an idea and can argue both the pros and cons whilst remaining as objective as possible.
6. The method promotes fuller input from more participants.
7. This approach helps to avoid confrontation and channels our critical analysis.

8. Disadvantages

Like any of these methods, it may not be useful and may even be counter-productive unless managed correctly.