Long and meaningless team meetings? A colleague who criticizes every new idea? Or total chaos in your head with emotions and rational thoughts?
No problem. Edward De Bono’s method: the six thinking hats can give you solutions for these problems. It was originally designed for group decision making discussions, but it can be used very effectively also for individual decision making.
Why Is This Method So Special?
It happens often that we would like to do more things at the same time, there’s confusion in our thoughts. We would like to be careful, but also creative at the same time and we can’t succeed. The six thinking hats method challenges our brains to look at the same direction. It means in practice that during the team meetings all of the participants focus on the facts for example. If you use this method for your own problems, it means that you focus only on one thing at the same time. How much easier it is to concentrate only on an idea’s advantages instead of both on advantages and disadvantages while you try to ignore your feelings…
What Kind of Hats Can We Put on Our Head?
The different directions of thinking are represented by coloured hats (white, red, yellow, black, green, blue). If we put on one of these coloured hats, it means that we look in the direction which the hat represents, we think according to that direction.
Wearing the White Hat
The white hat is neutral and objective, it focuses on the facts and data. When we put on the white hat, we search for answers to questions like:
- What kind of information we have?
- What kind of information we need?
- How can we get the needed information?
The white hat gives you the opportunity to talk about both cold hard facts and also soft facts such as opinion of someone, or even emotions of others.
Wearing the Red Hat
The red hat focuses on the emotions. Its colour refers to anger and emotions. There aren’t many opportunities in business to express our emotions. We try to be logical, however intuition and gut feelings have an important role in the decision making. We can express our emotions freely in the red hat. We don’t need to explain or justify our feelings. We just simply need to express ourselves. This hat is always used for a specific idea or situation.
Wearing the Black Hat
The black hat is represents the dark and serious point of view. In this hat we are more cautious and careful. We see easier the disadvantages of an idea than its advantages. It’s easier to see the risks in this hat. We receive answers to questions like:
- What can go wrong?
- What are the potential problems?
- What hazards do we see?
Wearing the Yellow Hat
The yellow hat is sunshinny and positive. It represents hope and positive thinking. In this hat we seek for an idea’s values, it’s the opposite of the black hat. These values should be logical, we shouldn’t use our fantasy to create them. This hat represents the optimist way of thinking and focuses on the best case scenarios.
Wearing the Green Hat
The green colour of this hat refers to the nature and to the fullness. It represents creativity and new ideas. When we wear the green hat we introduce new options, alternatives. This hat gives space for both conscious and instinctive creativity. This hat motivates everyone for creativity even those who don’t consider themselves creative personalities. We don’t judge and evaluate ideas in the green hat. Provocation is an important part of green hat thinking. It is used to step out of the normal patterns of thinking.
Wearing the Blue Hat
The blue hat is the symbol of control, it refers to organizing the thinking process and the effective usage of the other hats. The leader of the group or the meeting wears it usually. We decide the agenda and the order of the hats in blue hat. It also defines the object of the process, the focus area, the problem and the questions as well. We summarize and make conclusions in the blue hat during the meeting and/or after the meeting. This hat can be used both in the beginning and at the end of meeting.
In the beginning we answer questions like:
- Why are we here?
- What is the situation or the problem?
- What do we want to reach?
At the end we can answer questions like:
- What is the result?
- What is the plan?
- What is the solution?
Let’s Put Everything into Practice
The hats can be used after each other in any order we would like to follow. The hats can be used together or even separately. The same hat can be worn more times during the process. The best if you clarify in the beginning of the meeting the order of the hats and also the time you want to spend in a hat. for example 1 person – 1 minute).
If you want to resolve an individual problem, you can decide yourself the order of the hats. You can find an example below for the usage of the hats for individual problems.
I think through the problem and the order of the hats.
My problem is that I was offered a higher position at the company I work, but if comes with more work and more responsibility. I don’t know what to do.
First I’ll focus on my emotions (red hat) after it the facts (white hat) and than I’ll search for new ideas to this situation (green hat). I’ll sum up my thoughts in the end (blue hat).
- I’m uncertain, I’m not sure to take the job offer or not
- I’m proud that the job was offered to me
- I’m afraid that I won’t have enough time to my private life with this new job.
- I’m excited for the new opportunity.
- I’ve been working in this position for 3 years.
- I have 3 days to answer to the offer.
- The tasks that belong to the position are….
- The work hours for this position: 40 hours a week.
Creativity, new ideas:
- I can talk to my future manager and ask about his expectations
- I can talk to my friends who work in similar positions and ask them how they can manage the balance of private and work life.
- I can read more about time management and go to that training, I saw a couple of weeks ago.
- I can talk to my mentor.
I summarize my thoughts.
As I have time to answer, firstly I’ll get more information. I’ll talk to my future manager, to my friends and mentor. I’ll come back to this topic and decide 2 days from now.
Of course each of the hats can be used for individual thinking as well. I usually use this method when I have mixed feelings about a topic. We can say when my mind and heart tell me different things to do.
Edward De Bono brings a lot of examples when after introducing this method at companies, the time for decision-making in teams decreased significantly. At a company he mentioned by him the time spent on meetings about international projects was 30 days. After introducing the 6 thinking hats method, it decreased to 2 days only.
If you liked the method, you should definitely read the book as well in order to understand it deeperly. Feel free to write to me if you have more questions.