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  • Six Thinking Hats

Understanding the Concept of Six Thinking Hats

This article discusses what the six thinking hats technique is, its benefits, what each hat represents, and the practical application of this thinking process.

six thinking hats

Updated 23 Nov 2022 , Published 8 Apr 2022

What is the Six Thinking Hats Technique?

Used as a comprehensive thinking process method, the concept of the six thinking hats allows teams and individuals to improve their problem-solving and decision-making processes. Ultimately, such a methodology aims to look at situations and problems from various perspectives, ensuring that creativity aids in going beyond the habitual ways of thinking.

In some cases, this technique serves as a powerful lean methodology tool , in such a way that the six hats of thinking process helps eliminate “waste” or unnecessary conflicts and disputes during the discussion. In turn, only clarity and productivity are left in the process.

It’s also crucial to note that this thinking method is inclined toward providing a more positive approach to how teams and individuals propose solutions. This way, conflicts can be reduced and a healthy and sustainable culture of collaboration and cooperation is established.

Dr. Edward de Bono, a Maltese physician, psychologist, and philosopher, wrote a book called “Six Thinking Hats” in 1985. As stated on the book’s cover, the simple technique is based on the brain’s various modes of thinking and aims to empower everyone to “run better meetings, make faster decisions.”

Furthermore, Dr. de Bono believes that the central difficulty of thinking boils down to confusion, where people try to do too much all at once. At the core, it’s as if people attempt to juggle too many balls, allowing loads of responsibilities to overwhelm them.

To help contain such a challenge, he describes 6 various types of thinking, with each represented by a unique hat color. This is how the concept of the Six Thinking Hats was born.

As part of any organization’s long-term efforts to establish and sustain quality operations , going back to the basics may be regarded as something that’s too simple. However, that’s where it should start, most especially during discussions where ideas come to life.

Since its inception in 1986, the concept of the six thinking hats has helped organizations worldwide. Now, what are the six benefits of the six thinking hats? Here are the main factors where using this thinking process can be highly beneficial.


Using the six thinking hats technique promotes a highly organized process of thinking. This is because every angle tends to be considered, which helps further weigh information and remove unnecessary details, promoting streamlined decision-making.

With various team members assuming unique yet common roles during the thinking process, they are encouraged to probe situations and suggest ways to address them, going beyond the obvious or basic ways to do so. This, in turn, lets groups and individuals challenge their own capabilities, get more innovative ideas, and combine various perspectives to come up with new ones throughout the process.


Since the technique strengthens key skills such as organizational skills and creative thinking, people achieve more in fairly less time. This is because they are more empowered to work together, knowing the supposed direction of the discussion or problem-solving process. Hence, the six thinking hats method promotes role ownership and responsibility.

Quality decision-making

Ensuring that the context of the discussion is well-defined to a group is integral to reducing conflict and encouraging a more proactive way of thinking. One hat at a time, the members of the group can focus on one perspective then move to the next. This leads to quality decisions brought about by the positive impact of the process.


As the group takes on a role by assuming a common “hat” in the process, any preconceptions may be set aside so that the group can collectively focus on one perspective at a time. With minimal conflict and shared understanding, everyone can feel included in the discussion.

Interpersonal skills

The six thinking hats technique also improves one’s listening and communication skills. Further, using such a methodology helps people become more persuasive as they pitch ideas, more aware of when to support others during the discussion, and more confident with the way they present solutions and resolve conflicts that may occur.

What are the six thinking hats and what do they represent? Let’s go through each of them in detail.

six thinking hats

Dr. Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats

1. Blue hat

Responsible for when the group is focused on managing the overall decision-making, the blue hat mode is when the discussion’s agenda and goals are formed.

Sample questions to ask while using the blue hat:

2. White hat

Representing the process of gathering information, the white hat doesn’t just tackle the details that are available for the team’s reference, but also identify other pieces of information that are lacking and need to be collected.

Sample questions to ask while using the white hat:

3. Green hat

Used to spark novel and creative ideas, “wearing” the green hat allows for a free-flowing, think-outside-the-box process where any idea can be looked into, discussed, and noted.

Sample questions to ask while using the green hat:

4. Yellow hat

Typically covering the potential benefits of ideas, the yellow hat allows people to look at issues using the lens of optimism, further probing the insights gained during the green hat process.

Sample questions to ask while using the yellow hat:

Combining instincts and feelings, the people engaged in the red hat type of thinking are free to express their feelings toward the ideas passively, without having to explain or justify their fears or dislikes in a logical way.

Sample questions to ask while using the red hat:

6. Black hat

Often regarded as the “negative yet logical” type of thinking hat, the black hat aims to represent the act of looking at the possible scenarios that may be far from or opposite to the desired outcome, along with the risks associated with the ideas.

Sample questions to ask while using the black hat:

Though the six thinking hats process may be tailored-fit to suit the needs of the individual or group using it, knowing its ideal step-by-step method helps direct any meeting, brainstorming, or discussion in a more practical, conflict-free way.

Having that said, what is the order of the six thinking hats? As described by TSW Training , this is the recommended order:

It’s best to remember that facilitators or even team members can suggest using a different hat at any point in the discussion that seems more relevant or appropriate.

Dr. Edward de Bono believed that using the six thinking hats method toward success requires intentionally steering the discussion toward a particular approach.

Following the prescribed order of using the six thinking hats by TSW Training, a meeting can begin with all members “wearing” the blue hat to identify how the meeting will go and what the goals and objectives will be. Then, they can all move to the white thinking hat to present the needed information and what steps to take in gathering further details for the agenda. After that, the group can then proceed to “wearing” the green hat to generate ideas and solutions. In relation to this, the yellow hat allows the team to look at the new ideas from a positive viewpoint, laying down the potential benefits they can get from implementation. The next step is to use the red thinking hat to encourage everyone to express their feelings and instincts about the proposed solutions without having to justify what they feel. Lastly, the black hat is worn to challenge such ideas and probe the potential risks and how certain cautionary measures can be set in place in case the solutions fail.

The process of the six thinking hats can also be applied in the workplace, specifically for operations management and the following aspects:

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Why SafetyCulture?

Using the six thinking hats method is made easier and more efficient through technology. As an innovative operations management software , SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) helps organizations make quality decisions by empowering all workers to take part in the process.

By ensuring there are proper guidelines in place, workplace safety and quality operations can be achieved. With SafetyCulture, all these can be made possible and more by using the following features:

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SafetyCulture Content Specialist

Patricia Guevara

Patricia Guevara is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. With her extensive content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to streamline work processes, empowering companies to realize their business goals.

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Six Thinking Hats

History of the six thinking hats, how to run a six thinking hats exercise and examples, .css-1rpxuvi{position:absolute;left:0;top:-85px;} what are the six thinking hats, definition of the six thinking hats.

The six thinking hats is a method used to amplify creative conversations, by making sure that a broad variety of viewpoints and thinking styles are represented. Using six roles (or "hats"), the framework — developed by Dr. Edward de Bono — allows teams to more easily structure abstract thinking for productive results.

The six hats are:

The white hat: This is the objective hat, which focuses on facts and logic

The black hat: This is the cautious hat, used to predict negative outcomes

The yellow hat: This is the optimistic hat, used to look for positive outcomes

The green hat: This is the creative hat, where ideas are abundant and criticism spare

The blue hat: This is the hat of control, used for management and organization

In product development , the six thinking hats are used to divide up the project team into different groups (the white hat group, the red hat group, etc.). Each group talks about the product from their hat's perspective, i.e., the logical components, the emotional components, and so on. This allows for more focused collaboration among smaller groups that can later rejoin with stronger ideas and goals.

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The six thinking hats were first published in 1985 by the respected psychologist Dr. Edward de Bono. The inspiration for writing the book came from structuring creative thinking, which often leads to confusion and disagreement, especially in groups of people. 

The "hats" allow for organized and effective group thinking.

Six Thinking Hats is the perfect technique to look at decision-making from different perspectives. It introduces an organized parallel thinking process and it helps participants to be more mindfully involved and focused during discussion. 

This technique can be applied in many ways, both in groups and as individuals. After deciding on the problem or situation you need to discuss, try these approaches:

Start by assigning a moderator for the group who will wear the blue hat. The moderator should set an agenda prior to the meeting and be familiar with the Six Thinking Hats concept.

Then, each participant should have an easy way to see what perspective they have to take depending on what hat they have. A name tag with their respective hat color or a sign on the table in front of them should do the job.

Make sure everyone has a way to record their ideas, so they can clearly show which hat they were wearing at that particular time.

If the group is large, break it into smaller groups. You can assign a hat to each group to discuss their approach, or you can have all groups wear the same hat to discuss the same perspective before proceeding to the next hat.

It’s a good idea to rotate the hats between each group to foster as many new ideas as possible and make everyone think about the issue from different perspectives.

In order to improve teamwork and collaboration , you can also make each group and sub-group wear only one hat at a time.


When you deal with an issue, but you have to solve it alone, it’s best to use a template which has every hat along with a section to record your notes.

The straightforward way to do this is to work your way through each hat one at a time while making notes from each point of view.

Try not to jump around switching from one hat to another before you are done with it — that can get confusing.

Let’s imagine that you are holding a meeting in where you’re discussing the introduction of a new service or product to the market. Here’s how the Six Thinking Hats exercise will go:

The White Hat will ask, “What are the facts that we know?” and will present the known facts such as sales figures, market research, and other data.

The Red Hat will ask, “What are your gut reactions?” and will base the arguments on feelings, hunches, and instincts.

The Black Hat will ask, “What risks should we keep in mind?” and will present a rather pessimistic perspective, talking about disadvantages, risks, and problems.

The Yellow Hat will ask, “Why should we be optimistic?” and will be the opposite of the black hat, presenting the advantages, benefits, and opportunities.

The Green Hat will ask, “How can we create opportunities?” and will be the creative perspective, coming up with ideas and possibilities.

The Blue Hat will ask “What systems or processes will be needed?” and will be in charge of the overview, summary, and planning.

What Are The Six Thinking Hats?

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Six Thinking Hats: Definition, Benefits & Framework Explained

October 16, 2020 By Hitesh Bhasin Filed Under: MANAGEMENT

By using the concepts of Six Thinking Hats, you will be able to ensure a secure environment for everyone at a meeting where everyone can give ideas, share positive or negative thoughts, and express their emotions.

Edward De Bono introduced the concept of using six different colored hats, so participants can use it for thinking logically as well as creatively to generate and assess innovative and different ideas.

The method also lets you think clearly by offering you time to consider about one perspective at a time before making any decision.

It reduces confusion and helps you put up your framework of perspectives in a better way.

The following sections will show you how you can implement these six different hats in your life and make fruitful decisions.

Table of Contents


One of the most important thinking tools developed by Dr. Edward de Bono is that different intellectuals have widely praised the Six Thinking hats.

De Bono had a clear concept about his technique. He wanted to eliminate the chances of biased decisions.

He curated this technique back in the 1980s, which involves all the team members wearing the same color hat at a particular time and think in the same direction as the other team members are.

The method helps individuals as well as teams to think about a problem or a topic from different perspectives; it helps them broaden the boundaries of their thinking capacity and motivate the addition of fresh opinions.

You must have felt while discussing a topic in your group that different people use different thinking styles, which often end up in quarrels or blockage of the perfect decision.

However, the thinking hats bring together your thinking style parallel to your other team member’s thinking styles and help you yield a unified decision.

The framework of Six Thinking Hats

The framework of Six Thinking Hats

In the Six Thinking Hats technique, de Bono presents six different ways of thinking represented by six different colored hats.

When you wear different hats, you explore the diverse styles of thinking turn wise.

You learn the tricks of brainstorming different perspectives of the situation and make a transparent approach towards the problem.

The six thinking hats are:

1. White Thinking Hat

The White Thinking Hat asks you to gather and analyze as much information as possible about the situation.

It asks you to collect every piece of clues, hints, facts, and hidden information about the topic without jumping into conclusions.

The hat gives you the exact feel of a detective as you search through the different pieces of information and put them together.

The collection of data will help you put up your points in a more stable and managed manner. It will help you connect different aspects that will lead to a logical conclusion.

You must work as a team while brainstorming through these questions, as more number of people will lead to more knowledge.

2. Yellow Thinking Hat

The color yellow denotes optimism. The hat strives to bring to your notice the positive values of the issue.

The hat focuses on boosting your morale and bringing in more energy to your underlying idea about the topic.

While wearing the yellow hat, you have to brainstorm through the right values and benefits of the idea.

You should let your mind travel freely and think about all the possible benefits of the idea without setting boundaries.

As you move ahead with the six hats, you will find many more questions for your yellow hat, which will help you move forward with a positive attitude.

3. Black thinking hat

This hat works as the opposite pairing partner to the yellow hat. The hat denotes the exploration of the negative consequences of your idea.

People wearing this hat will brainstorm through the wrong-going of the idea.

The hat helps you identify the flaws, weak points, and dangerous consequences of the idea proposed by the team.

You might feel quite enthusiastic after looking at the results of a yellow hat. But the black hat will help you dive deeper into the results and identify the root problems that you might face in the future.

Thus, you can see that the black hat helps you identify your potential to cope with the risk factors.

4. Red Thinking Hat

The red hat denotes action. While wearing this hat, you will brainstorm through different plans and proposals with which you can go.

Here, you can hatch up plans which you “feel” are right for the problem.

Thus, the red hat makes you have an emotional approach to the problem. A red hat bearer has the following responsibilities:

5. Green Thinking Hat

Creativity during decision making helps you reach a valuable result. This hat strives to help you think outside the box so that you can open doors for more possible outcomes.

However, your creativity should be completely free of criticism.

While wearing this hat, you can have any number of ideas coming up and are noted down for a discussion.

There is no boundary for your thinking capacity as any idea can be jotted down without any judgmental looks.

Make sure that no idea is criticized, and every thought is appreciated as the hat allows even crazy ideas to be approved.

6. Blue Thinking Hat

The hat focuses on managing the thinking styles of all the other hats. It helps you analyze the situation in a better manner.

While wearing the blue hat, your role is to ensure the working and efficiency of your teammates. The blue hat focuses on:

These six thinking hats are used as metaphors to denote the different thinking styles used by a person.

The hats help people explore different perspectives of looking into a problem and its solution.

So what can be the benefits of these six thinking hats methodology?

Have a look at the following sections.

Benefits of Six Thinking Hats Methodology

There are 8 significant benefits of using the technique:

Thus you can see that the Six Thinking Hats mechanism helps improve your decision making in 8 different ways.

In case you are unclear about how to use the method, look at the following section.

How to use the Six Thinking Hats technique?

The framework of Six Thinking Hats

The hats form the categories of thinking styles and not a group of people. Thus it allows people to explore different categories and think towards the topic directly.

However, the correct results can only be achieved if one knows how to use the hats correctly.

The above sections already show the set of rules and questions you can go through for using the hats effectively.

But using the hats is a step-wise procedure:

The above sections might have been giving you directions that the method is only useful for business decisions. But that is not true. The six thinking hats have different uses.

Here is a video by Marketing91 on Six Thinking Hats.

Uses of Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking hats are a popular method that has been used by millions of people to make correct decisions.

It was used by the relief planners in Sri Lanka to reconstruct the damage caused by the tsunami in 2004.

You can also create different strategies and programs by dividing the usage of the hats according to your preference like:

For choosing between alternatives – Blue, white, green, yellow, black, red

Getting rapid feedback – Blue, black, green, black

For assessing performance – blue, red, white, yellow, black, green

Final Thoughts!

Edward de Bono’s Six Hats is a proper decision-making technique. Together with parallel thinking, it helps you use a collaborative thinking mechanism for making the right decisions in a group.

De Bono had mentioned this methodology in his famous book, Six Thinking Hats, in 1985.

The words thinking hats are metaphors, which denote mentally wearing hats for believing in a particular direction.

This method helps you think from different perspectives other than following up on a single process.

Each of the hats will help you make a broader application of your mind to a particular situation, helping you achieve your goals without facing any negative consequences.

If you liked this article, we bet that you will love the Marketing91 Academy , which provides you free access to 10+ marketing courses and 100s of Case studies.

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About Hitesh Bhasin

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importance of 6 thinking hats

Six Thinking Hats

Simple & effective..

Used with well-defined and explicit Return On Investment success in corporations worldwide, Six Thinking Hats is a simple, effective parallel thinking process that helps people be more productive, focused, and mindfully involved. A powerful tool set, which once learned can be applied immediately!


How It Works

You and your team members can learn how to separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each thinking role is identified with a colored symbolic “thinking hat.” By mentally wearing and switching “hats,” you can easily focus or redirect thoughts, the conversation, or the meeting.

Using Six Thinking Hats®, you and your team will learn how to use a disciplined process which will…

Significant Applications for the Parallel Thinking Process of Six Thinking Hats

importance of 6 thinking hats

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The Six Thinking Hats: How to Improve Decision Making, with Examples

Explore This Post

You:  When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who ya gonna call?

Me:  Dr Edward De Bono of course, and ask him about his six thinking hats…

importance of 6 thinking hats

Edward De Bono believes that:

“ the main difficulty of thinking is confusion, where we try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope and creativity all crowd in on us. It’s like juggling too many balls ”

To help alleviate this confusion he describes six different types of thinking, associating each with a different colour hat.

What is Six Thinking Hats?

Six hats thinking is a technique that helps individuals and teams look at problems and situations from a variety of perspectives. In essence, the six hats direct you on ‘ how to think ’ rather than ‘ what to think ’, which means it can be applied universally.

As identified by De Bono it simplifies thinking by maintaining focus on one element at a time and allowing a change in thinking while minimising conflict between members in a group.

Some examples of problems where six thinking hats can be used include:

It’s not all problems you know, you can apply six hats to opportunities, some examples include:

The Benefits of Using Six Thinking Hats

The process can:

The beauty of Edward De Bono’s hats is in their simplicity. They are easy to learn and implement in your own work and are a great tool for group collaboration and decision-making.

The biggest benefits are often seen in team working and collaborative problem solving as they can empower diverse groups of people to work together with a common perspective in mind.

The hats promote parallel thinking, which De Bono posited as a productive alternative to adversarial thinking (otherwise known as debate). By defining the perspective for a group, the benefits are a reduction of negative conflict and encouraged co-operation.

For example, if a group is asked to consider a problem with one hat at a time, they are less likely to be in dispute than when they are thinking from all perspectives. This often shows up as one team member looking at all the negatives while another is being highly positive and looking for all the good points.

The focus brought by the hats can have a positive impact on the quality of thinking. Instead of the unfocussed to and fro we will all have experienced when exploring a complex problem.

If you use the Six Thinking Hats effectively in your business you will…

To achieve the full benefits of six hats thinking you will need to understand the perspective that each hat represents.

What are the Six Thinking Hats?

importance of 6 thinking hats

For example, project managers responsible for pulling together many elements to complete a project could be said to wear a Blue Hat! In managing a project, he or she would concern themselves with many issues such as:

importance of 6 thinking hats

Black hat thinkers must apply critical thinking to the solutions identified, to explore and test their viability

What Order Should the Six Thinking Hats be Used in?

The six hats can be used in any order during a meeting or discussion. However, by using the hats in order you can direct a discussion in a more logical fashion. The order below will provide a flow for any meeting or discussion:

Even with this order in place a facilitator can reintroduce a hat that they feel is appropriate to the discussion. For example, it may be felt that the solutions identified using the green hat need to be interrogated, so participants can wear a white hat to dive into the facts around those solutions.

Here’s a diagram of the typical Six Thinking Hats order: 

importance of 6 thinking hats

Who is Using the Six Thinking Hats?

The technique is being used worldwide, with examples from a whole host of industries and sectors; healthcare groups, financial institutions, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, and utilities are just a few of the industries using Six Thinking Hats.

Just some of the organisations using Six Thinking Hats include:

How to Use the Six Thinking Hats in Practice

There are many ways to apply the hats in an organisation, both for an individual and in groups. You can take any problem or situation and try these approaches:

As an individual

An Example of The Six Thinking Hats in Action

To see how you might use the six hats in your own work, let us consider one of the examples mentioned already.

“A coffee house (let’s call them ‘coffee stop’) is getting a growing number of complaints from customers as they are having to wait too long for their coffee – how can they solve this problem?”

Joe, the current store manager has a team of eight people who work in a variety of roles. As the shop is closed on a Sunday Joe has asked the team to come together for a problem-solving exercise.

Joe introduces the team to six hats thinking before breaking them into two groups of four. He mixes up the group to create some diversity in thinking.

Joe tells them that each group will undertake six 15-minute rounds of six hat thinking, wearing a different hat for each round. Joe has the groups where  hats in a logical order so that discussions flow toward a final outcome .

Joe facilitates the group through the six 15-minute discussions, considering the problem from the perspective represented by their hat colour. They are asked to write their thoughts and ideas on post-it notes, keeping them for the end of the six sessions.

Once the groups have worn all the hats Joe facilitates the whole group to share their thoughts for each of the hats, giving the team a full picture of the problem from all perspectives.

What the groups might have come up with in their sessions:

When wearing the blue hat groups would be asking themselves things like:

When wearing the white hat groups would be asking themselves things like:

When wearing the green hat groups would be getting super positive and innovative. They will be looking for fresh ideas that may be outside the box. They might try to answer questions like:

When wearing the yellow hat groups would be optimistic, thinking of all the good things that will arise from the solutions they uncovered in the previous green hat round. For each idea, they might try to answer questions like:

When wearing the red hat groups will be throwing out all their negative gut feelings. For each green hat idea, they might try to answer questions like: 

When wearing the red hat groups will be using their logical brain (frontal lobe) to consider negative aspects of ideas, but from a logical standpoint. For each green hat idea and red hat negative, they might try to answer questions like:

Here’s a diagram of the the Six Thinking Hats in Action.

importance of 6 thinking hats

Concluding with a gold hat!

importance of 6 thinking hats

But the key to six hats is thinking in actions, so let’s call that the gold hat.

All of your meetings, discussions, exploration and thinking should culminate in forward movement, a commitment to implement new ways of doing and seeing things. The six thinking hats method should provide you with all you need to know to make good decisions and solve big problems.

So, put on your shiny new gold hat, have a freshly made (and quickly delivered) coffee and make things happen.

Need to develop your Leadership and Management skills?

Why not take a look at some of our virtual training courses, delivered to people across the globe.

Here are just some of the courses we offer at TSW:

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Six Thinking Hats technique explained: the types including examples

Six thinking hats Bono - toolshero

Six Thinking Hats technique: this article explains the Six Thinking Hats technique , developed by Edward de Bono in a practical way. This article contains the meaning of the Six Thinking Hats technique and a practical explanation of all six thinking hats, including examples. You will also learn about different related concepts, such as parallel thinking. The article also contains advantages and disadvantages of this method to extract maximum value and to avoid pitfalls. Enjoy reading!

What are the Six Thinking Hats?

Six Thinking Hats technique or dr Edward de Bono ’s Six Hats is a good decision making technique and method for group discussions and individual thinking.

Combined with the parallel thinking process, this technique helps groups think more effectively. It is a means to organize thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive manner.

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Edward de Bono is the founding father of this six thinking hats technique and wrote a book about this called the Six Thinking Hats in 1985.

Six Thinking Hats Technique: meaning of thinking hat

A thinking hat is a metaphor for a certain way of thinking. By mentally wearing different thinking hats people are forced to look at a problem from different perspectives. Thus a one-sided way of thinking is excluded and new insights are created.

He distinguishes six different frames of mind in which the brain can become sensitive. Each of these frames of mind can be found in the brain and create conscious thoughts for certain aspects of the issues that are being discussed, (e.g. gut feeling, pessimistic views, neutral facts).


Brainstorming is one of the most effective and widely used methods to kick-start innovation. Brainstorming sessions can be organised anywhere, from the office workspace to the laboratory.

However, the sessions are not always equally effective. This is usually due to a lack of leadership or because of conflicts. Edward de Bono , a pioneer in creative thinking , has developed six thinking hats to eliminate most of these disadvantages.

The technique enables the user to think in six different directions. By only wearing one hat at a time, a synergy can be created between the people participating in the brainstorming session. And on top of that, brainstorming and lateral thinking also stimulate creativity and expand the scope of solution-based thinking.

Types of six thinking hats technique

The six different frames of mind (six thinking hats) are identified in the shape of a hat and each of the hats is a different colour:

Information: consider only information that is available, what are the facts? The white hat pushes all available information and data to be considered forward. This includes information both from within and outside the scope of the discussion or brainstorming session. This delays the assessment of this data.

It is important to be clear and specific when it comes to data so that any ambiguity can be prevented. The general goal is to better understand the concept or subject that is up for discussion, which is easier when the data is being managed in a neutral way.

Emotions: intuitive reactions or gut reactions, or expressions of feelings (but no justification required). The red hat is the emotions hat. Whenever this hat is worn, the emotional thinking process is targeted.

Emotions can be both positive and negative. Examples of positive emotions include joy, happiness, admiration, enthusiasm and expectation.

Negative emotions include, for example, disappointment, jealousy, cynicism or anger. More neutral emotions would be curiosity and intuition. The objective behind wearing the red hat is to address the credibility of the emotions that play a part in a certain discussion.

Judgement: logic applied to identification of mistakes or  barriers, looking for a mismatch. The black hat is the hat of caution. This also includes critical evaluations.

All shortcomings of the concept that is up for discussion are noted. The scope of the problem is maximised, through which the ‘worst case scenario’ can be found. The moment this hat is worn, the participant is required to play devil’s advocate.

Positive view: logic applied to the identification of opportunities, looking for harmony. The yellow hat is the hat of positivity. The wearer of this hat is required to bring forward as many positive aspects related to the subject as possible. It is vital that, whilst wearing this hat, positivity is encouraged at all times.

The point of view of this hat is on how something works, not on how it doesn’t work. All positive aspects that come up will be jotted down. This hat focuses to understand all benefits and positive points of the various ideas.

Creativity: statements of provocation and investigation, hearing what an idea is about. The green hat is the hat of ideas.

Feasibility and judgment are temporarily set aside when this hat is worn, ensuring participants are free to generate as many ideas in the scope as possible. New ideas inspire you to think of even more new ideas. In this situation, everything is adapted to ‘out of the box’ thinking. The objective of this hat is to generate as many new ideas as possible.

Thinking: thinking about thinking. The blue hat is about the flow of the brainstorming session or discussion itself.

Thinking about thinking is also referred to as meta cognition. The agenda and timeline are also part of this. How long do the sessions take? When do you need to wear a particular hat, and for how long? The group’s controller should wear the blue hat for as long as the session takes.

Extra information

The coloured hats are used as metaphors for the various states of mind. Switching to a certain type of thinking is symbolized by wearing a coloured hat, literally or metaphorically.

These six thinking hats metaphors provide a more complete and comprehensive segregation of the types of thinking than the prejudices that are inherent to the immediate thoughts of people. All these thinking hats help people to think more deeply about a certain topic.

Parallel thinking

In ordinary and unstructured thinking, this method seems unfocused. The thinker moves from critical thinking to neutrality, to optimism, etcetera, without structure or strategy. The process of the six thinking hats introduces the process of parallel thinking.

Many people are used to ordinary thinking and they unconsciously navigate on their own habits. Sometimes these are effective and sometimes they are not. What is certain is that when people think in a group using their individual thoughts, they often fail to come to an agreement. As a consequence, there are no discussions.

The power of the ego and the identified preference for black hat thinking can lead to disastrous meetings. Even with courtesy and good manners and clear common objectives in cooperative thinking activities, people have a natural tendency for the so-called “spaghetti-thinking” in which one person is thinking about the advantages whereas another is considering the facts and so on.

Edward de Bono ’s six thinking hats prevent this, so that everybody shares each other’s opinions about the problems, advantages, facts, reducing distraction and supporting thought cross pollination.

This will be accomplished because everyone will put on a hat together, for instance the white hat. After the attendants have expressed their thoughts in a round of discussion, they will put on the next hat.

In this way all the attendants will think in the same way at the same time. The only exception is the facilitator, who will tend to keep the blue hat to ensure that the discussion will progress effectively.

Six Thinking Hats technique: the strategies and programmes

After the six types of thinking have been identified, different programmes can be created. These are sequences of hats that structure the thinking process towards a clear goal. A number of these goals have been included in the materials that support the franchise training of the six thinking hats method, however, it is often necessary to adapt these for individual purposes.

Sequences always begin and end with a blue hat, the group agrees on how they will think together, then they do the thinking and finally they evaluate the outcomes of the thinking process and what to do next. Sequences (and indeed hats) may also be used by individuals who work alone or in groups.

The following division can be made:

Examples of the Six Thinking Hats technique

The human, natural way of speaking and interacting is often a combination of different thinking hats, as is established by Edward De Bono .

For example, someone might say: this idea ties in with our strategy and could strengthen our market position but I don’t know if the cost is acceptable or if our customers will love the idea. This sentence flows from a white hat (in line with the strategy), to a yellow hat (improving the market position), to a red hat (customers may not like it).

The Six Thinking Hats method helps managers and others to analyse different statements and judge them separately.

Below are some examples of phrases that fall under each of the thinking hats.

Advantages and disadvantages of the Six Thinking Hats technique

The use and application of the Bono Six Thinking Hats technique of has several advantages and disadvantages. These are listed below.

Advantages and benefits of the Six Thinking Hats technique

Disadvantages of the Six Thinking Hats technique

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It’s Your Turn

What do you think? What is your experience with the Six Thinking Hats technique by Edward De Bono? Do you use the six hats to discuss issues from a variety of perspectives? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more suggestions? What are your success factors for good decision making?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

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The only limitation I perceive with 6 thinking hats, and I am novice with its use, is that all parties must be trained in the model for it to work. This is fine if all parties are from the same organisation, but if from different organisations, they might not be exposed to six thinking hats and probably aren’t. Have I misunderstood the model with my belief?

importance of 6 thinking hats

Thank you for your comment and question, Tim.

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Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats

What is the Six Thinking Hats Technique by Edward De Bono?

The Six Thinking Hats is a role-playing model developed by Edward de Bono  in 1986.  Each hat represents a different lens or perspective on a particular issue and is an insightful activity that prevents narrow thinking. 

It serves as a team-based problem solving and brainstorming technique that can be used to explore problems through various perspectives in order to uncover options that might otherwise be overlooked. 

The basic premise behind the Six Thinking Hats is that most people think and reason in a specific way based on their personality type.  This means that a more emotional person may generate ideas differently than a more analytical person, and vice-versa. Similarly a pessimist will approach a situation very differently than an optimist.

An example of the benefit of running the thinking hats techniques is therefore to encourage different perspectives to be shared, seen and discussed as part of the decision making process.

The six types of “Thinking Hats” are:

Use the Six Thinking Hats for Better Meetings

Six Thinking Hats is a powerful technique for decision making that includes different points of view.

The process and methodology allows emotion and skepticism to be brought into what might normally be a purely rational process, and it opens up the opportunity for creativity within decision making.

Decisions made using the Six Thinking Hats technique can be more resilient and based on a holistic perspective, allowing you to avoid pitfalls and gaps before you have committed to a decision.

When Should I use the Six Thinking Hats Technique?

Use the Six Thinking Hats model to help with:

Six Thinking Hats Template Example

Imagine if you are facilitating a meeting to introduce a new product or service to the market. In doing so, you might ask people to wear different hats, or to navigate between the hats around this goal.

“What are the facts that we know?”

 – Our survey last month indicated a 5% preference of the green product by women aged 25 – 45.

– Return rates from sales has fallen by over 50% since the introduction of the new delivery packaging.

– There are new delivery routes available via Company Logistics.

“Why should we be optimistic?”

  – The new product could increase our revenue diversification stream and increase our family of products.

– We can start receiving better feedback and testimonials from our customers.

– The impact from damage from delivery will meet our service standards.

“What are your gut reactions?”

– The green colour inspires a sustainable look and is very appealing. This is even a great shade.

– The impact on the reduced return rates could mean additional resources.

– How do the new delivery routes impact our delivery times? I would certainly be interested in learning more about it.

 “How can we create opportunities?”

– A green range could be expanded to a different colour range set or be symbolic.

– Creating multiple channels will allow us to establish new partnerships and partners.

– Speeding up quality and reliability of delivery could allow us to bundle exisiting products.

“What risks should we keep in mind?”

– Is a 5% preference sufficient for us to make a single colour product? What happens if preferences change.

– What is the cost of maintaining the packaging quality and sustainability?

– The new delivery routes may not have been proven as reliable yet or may increase our costs.

“What systems or processes will be needed?”

  – Let’s go around the room and discuss the colour options based.

– How has the reduced return rates impacted our warehousing department?

– Would there be any other changes to our workflow with a new delivery partner and will it change our logistics technology?

How to Use the Six Thinking Hats to Run Better Meetings

Six Thinking Hats is a powerful technique for looking at decision-making from different points of view. By introducing a structured parallel thinking process, it helps people to be more focused and mindfully involved in a discussion.

importance of 6 thinking hats

Start brainstorming through each of the different hats.

importance of 6 thinking hats

Review the responses for common themes that can be grouped.

importance of 6 thinking hats

Have people voted on the topics that they would like to discuss the most.

importance of 6 thinking hats

Share the results and facilitate the discussion towards a decision.

Facilitate the conversation (wearing the blue hat).

As an inspiration, check the following example of how to use Six Thinking Hats sequentially to resolve a problem with alternative solutions:

You may decide which sequence of hat use fits best for your purpose. In general, it is recommended that each hat is worn at some point however, there are some sensible sequences too.

Once you have completed the brainstorm for each thinking hat, review the responses and look for common themes which can be grouped into one.

This step is more time consuming if the brainstorming was performed individually – or completed at different times and locations. Using a software tool like GroupMap to group ideas can significantly reduce the time and effort required in this step – and result in a better outcome.

Now that there are clear themes, encourage your participants to vote on the top three ideas they would like to discuss further.

You can facilitate this by advising participants to vote based on: 

Combining individual voting into an overall score is much easier and faster if you use an online tool like GroupMap, especially if you can vote on ideas individually and independently.

With the votes tallied, you can now better facilitate the discussion in the meeting and help the group come to a more considered and educated decision.

Sharing the outcomes of the Six Thinking Hats process ideas and comments with the wider group of stakeholders as well as the team is essential to getting buy in! 

The results of your Six Thinking Hats should allow for the next steps of:

Cross Device Compatibility

Save effort, time and money with GroupMap

Whether you have your best minds together in the same room, or distributed around the world , GroupMap’s unique technology allows groups of up to 2000 to submit ideas independently at separate times, from different places, in different timezones. Prevent dominant personalities swaying the group, drowning out the opinions of others – GroupMap allows everyone to brainstorm independently then effortlessly combines that information to reveal the full spectrum of ideas. GroupMap templates keep the objective front and center throughout the session, keeping everyone on task. This ensures the activity identifies actionable issues rather than becoming just a discussion on ideas. GroupMap gives you all the group decision making tools you need to prioritize, decide and take action.

Create your first map and invite people in to start sharing their thoughts right NOW. Experience the power of GroupMap with our 14-day, no risk, FREE trial. You don’t even need to provide your credit card details to access to all of our features, including the entire suite of templates, for a full 14 days.

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importance of 6 thinking hats

Six Thinking Hats: use parallel thinking to tackle tough decisions

Stuck in a stalemate? Try this time-honored technique on for size.

Amy Rigby

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Think back to the last major decision your team made together. Was there a struggle to get everyone to offer input? Did one person dominate the discussion? Did everyone quickly rally around one idea without exploring alternatives?

The brilliance of a diverse team is that each individual has unique perspectives to contribute to the larger picture. But tapping into those insights can be a challenge when multiple people are involved in a discussion – especially when a team is tasked with making a difficult decision.

If you’re seeking a more balanced, systematic approach that makes room for everyone’s voice, try the Six Thinking Hats. Below, we’ll explore this decision-making tool that teams at IBM and NASA have used to break down biases and tackle tough choices.

Six Thinking Hats: what is it and where did it come from?

Physician, psychologist, and author Edward de Bono conceived of the Six Thinking Hats and describes how it works in his 1985 book of the same name. In this role-playing exercise, participants “put on” six different metaphorical hats that each represent a certain type of thinking.

According to de Bono, the Six Thinking Hats method serves two main purposes:

De Bono asserts that Western thinking is based on an argument system, where one person makes a statement and another challenges it. The Six Thinking Hats offers an alternative: parallel thinking. 

“Parallel thinking means that at any moment everyone is looking in the same direction,” de Bono writes in Six Thinking Hats. While argument focuses on “what is,” parallel thinking looks at “what can be.”

By looking in the same direction at the same time, the entire team can collaborate on a solution and continuously move the discussion forward, instead of getting mired in debate, resulting in more balanced decision-making.

How it works

In his book, de Bono encourages the use of bits and pieces of his technique and its nomenclature in a variety of situations. You can use the hats in everyday workplace conversations as symbols to request a type of thinking. However, the Six Thinking Hats method as a formal, structured sequence (which we’ll describe below) is best suited for:

Step 1: Define an issue to discuss. Six Thinking Hats sessions should be focused on a particular problem that needs to be solved or a decision that needs to be made.

Step 2: Assign the blue hat to one person. The blue hat is the meeting leader who starts and ends the discussion and announces when it’s time to change hats.

Step 3: As a group, go through each hat, one at a time. How much time should your team spend under each hat? De Bono recommends one minute per attendee. So if five people are present, dedicate five minutes total to each hat. If you need to go over, you can extend the time, but de Bono recommends keeping each “hat session” brief and focused. 

Step 4: Define the outcome. By the end of the session, your team should be able to make a decision and decide on the next steps.

The six hats defined

Let’s use an example to illustrate how a team might use the Six Thinking Hats to have more productive discussions and make better decisions faster, based on de Bono’s method.

With this problem statement in mind, let’s cycle through each of the six hats and show how they might be used to solve this issue.

🔵 Blue hat: moderator

When you think of the blue hat, think of the sky overhead: all-encompassing. Under the blue hat, you’ll be “thinking about thinking.”

More on the blue hat

One person wears the blue hat – in essence, acts as a moderator – for the entirety of the session, but all attendees are asked to participate in two “blue hat sessions”: one at the beginning of the discussion to frame the conversation and one at the end to define the outcome and next steps. All the other hats are “worn” by the whole group together.

Whoever puts on that blue hat is the neutral moderator who: 

⚪️ White hat: information

The white hat is concerned with “just the facts.” White-hat thinkers remain neutral, looking only at the available information without making interpretations about it. Under the white hat, you may put forth facts that are doubtful (beliefs), but only if you make it clear that you’re unsure of their veracity. If necessary, you can fact check them later.

🔴 Red hat: emotions and instinct

When teams put on the red hat, individuals are free to voice their emotions, but not explain or justify them. The red hat phase is about normalizing and legitimizing gut feelings, which is an important part of the decision-making process that often gets ignored.

Note: Your team should spend as little time as possible under the red hat – you want people to express their gut reaction, without overthinking or explaining. You might need only one minute total for everyone to share their red hat statements.

⚫️ Black hat: Risks

The black hat is the lens of caution. Black hat thinking requires you to consider the potential risks and how you might tackle them. Note that it is not a bad hat, but an essential one that could save money, time, and a variety of other headaches. In fact, de Bono calls the black hat “the most valuable of all the hats and certainly the most used.”

🟡 Yellow hat: Benefits

Like sunshine and smiley face emojis, the yellow hat conjures up positivity and optimism. Wearing the yellow hat requires you to identify the benefits of a suggestion and think of ways to put an idea into motion. De Bono warns that yellow hat thinking is harder than black hat thinking because humans are naturally sensitive to danger. That’s why the yellow hat is so crucial: it inspires us to find the value in an idea.

Note: Yellow hat thinking must be backed by evidence; otherwise, it’s just a positive feeling, and therefore would fall under red hat thinking.

🟢 Green hat: Creativity

Use divergent thinking to generate fresh ideas in your next brainstorm

Use divergent thinking to generate fresh ideas in your next brainstorm

When faced with a decision, people have a tendency toward tunnel vision, seeing only option A or option B when there might be an option C, D, and so forth. The green hat mitigates this bias by encouraging creative solutions that otherwise might not be considered. It is also the green hat’s role to come up with solutions to the challenges presented under the black hat.

Creating a shared language

Beyond the structured process described above, you can use the Six Thinking Hats informally in a variety of workplace situations. For example, if you sense that a colleague has a bad feeling about a business deal you’re about to close, you might say: “Hey, what’s your red hat thinking on this?” Framing the question in that way frees up people to express emotion, which can be difficult to do in a workplace. The Six Thinking Hats creates a shared vocabulary and symbolism that you and your team can use to communicate more effectively and direct your ways of thinking.

How to reach a decision using the Six Thinking Hats technique

By the end of a Six Thinking Hats session, you’ll have accomplished something that teams stuck in the argument style cannot: You’ll have included everyone in looking at every aspect of a problem, together . This ensures balance, fairness, and as little bias as possible. 

To close the discussion, the designated blue hat wearer asks the group what they’ve concluded. Thanks to the balanced discussion and new insights gained through this role-playing exercise, your team should naturally arrive at a decision and define next steps.

But what happens if you reach a stalemate? Interestingly, de Bono himself recommends that if you’re still stuck on a decision, go with your gut.

“In the end, all decisions are really ‘red hat,’” he writes. “We lay out the factors but the final decision is emotional.”

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