The Six Thinking Hats Technique was introduced by Edward de Bono as a lateral thinking approach. It is particularly useful in assessing the ideas gleaned from brainstorming activities. It facilitates critical thinking and creativity by ensuring that participants are able to examine the different perspectives to an issue before arriving at a conclusion. This technique can also help analysts in evaluating alternatives and thinking effectively before speaking. The different hats direct our thinking and are elaborated as follows:
1. The Blue Hat - This is where you think about what level of thinking is needed and you plan for this to happen. What have we done so far? What next do we think about?
2. The White Hat - You lay down the facts here. What do you know about the problem or situation? What do you need to know and how can you go about getting the information?
3. The Yellow Hat - This hat embodies optimism. You think of and enumerate all the positive aspects of the idea. Why will the idea work? How will it help or what benefits will it bring?
4. The Black Hat - Here, you think of all the things that can go wrong like the risks, difficulties and dangers that lie ahead with an idea.
5. The Red Hat - You examine your feelings, hunches and identify what they are telling you.
6. The Green Hat - You consider as many alternatives as possible and table them.
For Group Sessions (Groups of 2 or More)
- Ensure that everyone is wearing the same hat at once so that each aspect of the problem can be trashed out (Parallel thinking). When the hats change, the type of thinking changes and all the participants are able to talk through the points.
- One or more hats can be used depending on the peculiar circumstances of the situation.
- The technique can be used in meetings to reduce arguments and promote collaboration thereby minimising the amount of time spent making decisions.
For Individual Sessions
The Six Thinking Hats Technique can be used by the BA in thinking through a problem, presenting ideas and writing business cases.
There’s no “best” way to use the Six Thinking Hats Technique. How you use it and which hat you employ first depends on your unique situation and the participants involved. The outline below however represents a recommended systematic approach for its application.
- Determine the subject. Is it a new project, problem, product or an idea that will be assessed?
- Prepare for the discussion by ensuring that everyone understands the agenda as well as the principles of the Six Thinking Hats Technique. All external information that is necessary to facilitate decision-making is gathered at this stage.
- Wear each hat in turn and allow participants to voice their comments on each hat. Take note of the key points.
- Understand the information gathered. Filter the information and categorise what you have learnt.
- Make a decision after an evaluation of all the key points.
Following this systematic approach can help prevent arguments, promote cooperation and encourage accountability for the outcome of the project.
For more on how this technique can be applied, see Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats: Outlining the Basics.