Six Thinking Hats

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Six Thinking Hats - short version

Brainstorming technique used to view a problem from six distinctly different perspectives (Analytical, Emotional, Critical, Positive, Creative, Managed).

Six Thinking Hats - long version

The de Bono Hats system (also known as "Six Hats" or "Thinking hats") is a thinking tool for group discussion and individual thinking. Combined with the idea of parallel thinking which is associated with it, it provides a means for groups to think together more effectively, and a means to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way. The method is attributed to Dr. Edward de Bono and is the subject of his book, Six Thinking Hats.

The premise of the method is that the human brain thinks in a number of distinct ways which can be identified, deliberately accessed and hence planned for use in a structured way allowing one to develop strategies for thinking about particular issues. Dr de Bono identifies six distinct states in which the brain can be "sensitised". In each of these states the brain will identify and bring into conscious thought certain aspects of issues being considered (e.g. gut instinct, pessimistic judgment, neutral facts).

Six distinct states are identified and assigned a color:

* Information: (White) - considering purely what information is available, what are the facts?

* Emotions (Red) - instinctive gut reaction or statements of emotional feeling (but not any justification)

* Bad points judgment (Black) - logic applied to identifying flaws or barriers, seeking mismatch

* Good points judgment (Yellow) - logic applied to identifying benefits, seeking harmony

* Creativity (Green) - statements of provocation and investigation, seeing where a thought goes

* Thinking (Blue) - thinking about thinking

Coloured hats are used as metaphors for each state. Switching to a state is symbolized by the act of putting on a coloured hat, either literally or metaphorically. These metaphors allow for more complete and elaborate segregation of the states than the preconceptions inherent in people's current language. All of these thinking hats help for thinking more deeply. The six thinking hats indicate problems and solutions about an idea or a product you might come up with. Furthermore, Dr de Bono asserts that these states are associated with distinct chemical states of the brain — however, no details or evidence of this are presented.

Strategies and Programs

Having identified the six states that can be accessed, distinct programs can be created. These are sequences of hats which encompass and structure the thinking process toward a distinct goal. A number of these are included in the materials provided to support the franchised training of the six hats method; however it is often necessary to adapt them to suit an individual purpose. Also, programs are often "emergent", which is to say that the group might plan the first few hats then the facilitator will see what seems to be the right way to go.

Sequences always begin and end with a blue hat; the group agrees together how they will think, then they do the thinking, then they evaluate the outcomes of that thinking and what they should do next. Sequences (and indeed hats) may be used by individuals working alone or in groups.


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