‘Six Thinking Hats’ is a powerful decision making technique created by Edward De Bono. It is used to look at decisions from a number of different perspectives. It forces you to move outside your usual thinking style, helps you to get a more rounded view of the situation and means you will be more confident of your decsision as a result.
Think of each ‘Hat’ as a different style of thinking which you need to explore. Some of these may come very naturally to you but not all of them will.
White Hat = Objectivity. This is very logical and fact based thinking. Look at the information you have, and see what you can learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge, and either try to fill them or take account of them.
Key questions: What information have we got? What other information do we need?
Red Hat = Intuition. Look at problems using intuition, gut reaction, and emotion. Ask other people for their emotional reaction. Try to understand the responses of people who do not fully know your reasoning.
Key questions: What is your initial reaction? What does your intuition tell you?
Black Hat = Caution. This looks at all the negative aspects and what can go wrong. This is one of the real benefits of this technique as it removes the rose tinted glasses. Trying to see why it might not work highlights the weak points in a plan. It allows you to eliminate them, alter them, or prepare contingency plans to counter them.
Key questions: What do we need to be cautious about? Why won’t it work? What do you dislike?
Yellow Hat = Positivity. The optimistic viewpoint helps you to see all the benefits of the decision and the value in it. It helps you to keep going when everything looks gloomy and difficult.
Key questions: What is good about…? What is the value of…? How can it work?
Green Hat = Creativity. This is where you can develop innovative solutions to a problem. It is a freewheeling way of thinking, in which there is little criticism of ideas. you can use a variety of creativity tools here.
Key questions: What other ways are there? How can we solve the problem? What if..?
Blue Hat = Process Control. The hat usually worn by leaders of meetings. If ideas run dry, they can go into Green Hat thinking. When contingency plans are needed, they can initiate Black Hat thinking, etc. A variant of this technique is to look at problems from the point of view of different professionals (e.g. doctors, architects, sales directors, etc.) or different customers.
Key questions: Why? How did you get to that answer? What is the main idea? Look at it form another angle…
Of course you don’t actually have to invest in a set of different colour hats if you really don’t want to; just try asking the questions and see what response you get.