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Who’s Edward De Bono?

Edward de Bono is one of the pioneers of Brain Training. In 1967 he invented the world-famous Lateral Thinking technique. He is a proponent of the direct teaching of thinking as a skill. He has dedicated his life to help people from around the world improve their thinking abilities and creativity skills. His courses such as Six Thinking Hats Method and thinking tools have been used by top corporations, governments, and world leaders but his tools have also been used by schoolchildren. His methodologies have been proven to help people of all thinking levels to make smarter decisions, faster.


First, I will tell you about the purpose of the thinking hats. Then I would like to identify and differentiate the different thinking hats and their functions. And finally, I would like you to use six thinking hats in discussing an issue.

Six thinking hats is basically a critical thinking tool. Let me give you an example. Imagine you were an explorer and you found yourself on an island and you would like to find out what is going on on that island.

What would you do?

You would take a look around. You would observe and you would make sure you note each and everything. But usually what we note are only things that are prominent. For example, look at this picture.

If anyone were to ask you to describe the island, you would probably say, “Oh, it has greenery on one side, and then right in the middle there’s a huge volcano” That’s probably what you are going to say. And it is surrounded by water.

Now, six thinking hats gives you an overview or a grid. You can that grid onto the picture of the island or a problem. You can then look at it one bit at a time.

The six thinking hats method was created by Edward De Bono. It is a critical thinking tool. These six thinking hats have different colors and each color functions differently.

The Premise

Now the premise of six thinking hat is this: Doing everything at the same time would only create confusion. Basically six thinking hats would give you a frame of reference. There are five advantages of six thinking hats. The first one, six thinking hats, encourages parallel thinking.

Why do we use it? Firstly, we use it as a tool for group discussion and individual thinking. That means you can use it to help you to optimize them.

Secondly, it is a means for a group to think together more effectively. Imagine you have six people in your group. There would be six different ways of thinking about things but with six thinking hats, all six of us would think about one thing at one time.

The third reason why we use six thinking hats is that it is a way to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way. With six thinking hats, you know exactly what you’re going to do, one after another, then it will hit all the areas and then it would make your work and your thinking more cohesive.

Advantages of Six Thinking Hats

First: Six Thinking Hats encourages parallel thinking. Parallel thinking means that all your group members are thinking in one direction. So the more you work together, you are thinking about one thing, the better.

Second: It encourages full-spectrum thinking. Full-spectrum thinking means that you cover all possibilities.

Third: It separates ego from performance. Whenever you do a group discussion, it is whether you want it or not.It is a social event. It is a social thing because you’re not working by yourself, you’re working with people and sometimes people tend to think that they own their ideas. So if the next person say, “Oh, that’s a bad idea.” Or “Oh, I don’t think that’s going to work.” Whenever somebody criticizes an idea, the person who comes up with that idea would feel threatened or would feel defensive, and they would think that the criticism is not on the idea but on them. But Six Thinking Hats would help you separate ego from performance. You will know that when you are doing this, it is not about you. It is about the problem and solving the problem.

Fourth: It allows the obtaining of fuller input from more people. When you work in a group there will be different kinds of personality. Six Thinking Hats would help you to obtain input or information from each and every one of those people and personalities.

Fifth: It encourages performance rather than ego defense. Now this calls back to the third point, which is separating ego from performance. When you understand that this is about performance of the group, not about you, it makes you be more encouraging to people. It helps you be more open to people. It helps elicit better performance from each and everyone of the group members because everybody knows that when we are doing Six Thinking Hats right, it’s not about you, it’s about the problem.

Explanation of The Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats book summary
Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono Quick Reference – StoryShots

Blue Thinking Hat is About the Process

Now of the Six Thinking Hats, this is the only hat that focuses on the process. It means that this hat does not talk about the subject. This hat talks about how are we going to discuss the subject. This is an overview of process control hat. I call it the boss hat. It does not look at the subject itself but at the thinking about the subject. In technical term, the blue hat is more concerned with meta-cognition i.e. with how to think. We are not just thinking, we are thinking about how to think.

It talks about what kind of thinking is needed. It organizes the thinking. First, we are going to look at the premise or next we are going to look at this, etc. and finally, it plans for action that needs to be taken. It is in charge of the decision making. Is it enough? Is the discussion about something enough or do we need to discuss some more? It is in charge of coming up with a summary and predicting the outcome or collecting the outcome of the discussion.

White Thinking Hat Seeks Facts

White thinking hat is all about facts. You are not talking about whether this is good or bad. The questions you will ask with the white thinking hat on are:

  • What do we have?
  • What information do we have?
  • What more information do we need?
  • How are we going to get them?

This is all about the information. So this thinking hat, would collect data and information. It is neutral and objective. That means you are not supposed to pass judgment at this point. You are just collecting. How can you remember that? White is like paper and you write the information on paper, don’t you? So white paper, people write facts on white papers. You can do whatever you want. You can create another way for you to remember what hat, does what.

Red Thinking Hat is About Feelings

Red thinking hat is all about feeling. It is all about guts reaction. It is all about intuitive and visceral gut reaction or statement of emotional feelings and you do not have to provide any justification. Why do we need this? Sometimes when we have to do something and we don’t like to do it, it helps if we can express how we feel, “Oh I really hate this, I don’t want to do this.” But then you know you have to do it. But because your feelings are expressed, you are like “Okay fine, I’ll do it.”

Also, red thinking hat allows for you to express your feelings. Because sometimes when you are in a serious discussion, people always think that feelings and emotions have no place at all in a discussion. This is why when people sometimes don’t get to express their feelings, they feel like they are not free and they feel that they are being dictated on or stuck somehow. So Six Thinking Hats allows you to use statement of feelings. Only when red hat thinking comes up. Here you talk about your intuition, your hunches, your guts, your feeling at that very moment. And you have to understand, feelings can change, because sometimes you don’t like something and then you do it. You’re like, “That wasn’t so bad. I don’t mind it. I used to hate it, but now I don’t mind it.” And then maybe you do it some more. You’d be like, “I actually like that.” You don’t have to give any justification. You can be as emotional as you like.

Black Thinking Hat Looks for Faults

Now this is what people are very used to. They’re used to finding faults with things. They’re used to be able to talk about obstacles. It’s not that it’s bad, but it is overused. I’m sure you’ve been to many meetings where they’re like, “Oh, somebody was saying something good.” You’re like, “Oh no, that’s never going to work.” Because of this or that. So it tends to be overused. Now, what does it cover? Black hat thinking covers bad point judgment. Logic is applied to identifying flaws and barriers and obstacles and seeking mismatch. It talks about difficulties, weaknesses and dangers that you might face. And you have to give your justification. You have to give your logical reason. Black hat thinking is the opposite of red hat thinking where you don’t have to justify anything.

It helps you spot the risks. People talk about bad things all the time. Not many people talk about any other thing at all, which is why meetings are often so depressing.

But note that black hat thinking is not just about the bad points. It is also about caution. It talks about policy and regulations. If you are writing things down and then you’re like, “Oh, this is about the statute one or eight.” It goes under black hat thinking.

Yellow Thinking Hat is about Benefits

Next is yellow hat thinking and it’s all about benefits. You talk about good points, you talk about the positive aspects. But as with the black hat thinking, yellow hat thinking must also be applied with logic. You identify the benefits, but it has to be logical. It has to have justification. It seeks harmony, it seeks positives. It seeks plus points, why an idea is useful and it values sensitivity. Unlike black hat thinking where in addition to all the negative points, you also need to talk about laws and policy, in yellow hat thinking, you talk about sensitivity. You are being sensitive. You’re not just like an elephant in a China shop anymore, so you will talk about what values go with this particular topic, what kind of ethics judgment that you need to be aware of.

Green Thinking Hat Calls for Creativity

This is where you create the solution to the problems that you find in the black hat thinking. Green hat is also responsible to answer statement of provocation and investigation. Here, you investigate. You go with it, you seek solution, ideas, and alternative possibilities.

Now, is the statement of provocation about being angry with people or is it about fighting? No, it’s not. Statement of propagation basically means that you pose a hypothesis and see where it goes. For example, if Superman had a fight with Incredible Hulk, who would win? That is a statement of provocation. It provokes you to think. It does not mean you trying to pick fights with people, but you are investigating that and you seeing where that thought goes.

Recap of The Advantages of Six Thinking Hats

It separates the ego from performance. That means you are responsible for the performance of your discussion for how completely your discussion is and not about your ego. Not about, “Oh that’s my idea, or he can’t take my idea.” It’s all about the performance. Did we answer the questions, did we find the solution? That is the performance that you are more interested in.

Six Thinking Hats supports the separation of different modes of thinking. As we remember from my example of the explorer and the island. When you talk about one thing at a time, you are able to give it your full attention. It is inquisitive line of thinking at one point and looking for positive at another time, etc. Six Thinking Hats promotes single-tasking and focused work. When you mix everything up, you slow yourself down. It’s like opening many applications at the same time in your computer instead of closing all except one. When you try to do everything at one time, you cannot do anything effective. You might be able to do some, but it won’t be as effective as if you devote your full attention to one thing at a time. Why? Because it disturbs the balance of neurotransmitter in your brain. Different areas light up in your brain whenever you do different things. Like my example with the computer just now, when you try to do everything at the same time, your whole brain lights up. So the energy or the capabilities are being dispersed into different directions.

So when you do one thing at a time, your whole capacity your whole processing capability can be devoted to one task and completed effectively and on time.

Groups think together in a focused manner. When they use Six Thinking Hats because you do one thing at one time. They tend to stay on task because there’s no time to check your social media and think about your cat, etc. You will look at your task and you do it at one time. And then because of that it really helps in focusing your combined effort.

Finally, it is used as a deliberate focusing tool of the discussion on a particular approach as needed during a meeting or collaborative session. You don’t have to use six thinking hats at all times. For example, if you have a meeting or a collaborative effort, you decide in the middle of a meeting, “Hey, we need to just think right now of the advantages.” So everyone will put on the yellow hat at the same time. It’s a deliberate focusing tools that you use at different times.

The Movie Example and Exercise

Now finally, this is a very simple and easy way for you to practice your usage of Six Thinking Hats. Now for blue hat, let’s talk about movies.

For blue hat you decide what is the focus, what are the objective of this discussion? You don’t talk about the movie yet. You talk about what you would like to achieve in this discussion.

Second, you talk about red hat thinking. Do you like the movie? Do you hate the movie? You think the movie is boring, so you can just say how you feel about the movie.

Next, white hat thinking would require you to collect the data or collect the facts or collect the info about the movie. Who’s the director? Who’s the script writer? What is the plot? Who plays what? and so on. All the information that you have and what kind of information do you still require. How are you going to find that information?

Next, yellow hat thinking and black hat thinking together. Let’s say you talk about one character or like two characters, one the hero and one the villain or protagonist or antagonist. Now it’s very easy to find good things about the good guy and it’s very easy to find the bad things about the bad guy. I want you to flip that. I want you to find good things about the bad guy and I want you to find bad things about the good guy. So for example, let’s talk about Loki and Thor in Avengers. Clearly, Loki is the bad guy and Thor is a good guy, right? Find what the good things about Loki are.

Next, with the green hat on, you will write an acrotic poem. Do something creative about it. Acrotic poem is basically you write the name of that character. For example, the T, H, O, R stands for what? H stands for what? So that’s you being creative. So if you’ve done that, basically you would understand the basics of Six Thinking Hats.

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Six Thinking Hats book summary

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