If you haven’t read the book by Dr Edward de Bono: Six Thinking Hats, or studied his concept about lateral thinking, you should. Dr de Bono represents one of the rare authors who instructs people on HOW TO think rather than WHAT TO think. Some recognize him as one of the 250 people who have contributed most to mankind.

Dr de Bono Approach Increases Decision Quality

As shared in another Best Practices article, SCAMPER is a mnemonic to prompt for excellent, impromptu questions. Nobody is smarter than everybody because groups create more options than individual ideas that are aggregated. Any group or individual is known to make a higher quality decision when provided with more options. The perspectives driving Dr de Bono: Six Thinking Hats also makes it easier to generate more ideas, thus a higher quality output.

This article cannot even attempt to do justice to de Bono’s nearly 200-page book. However, you can make it easier for a group to create new ideas by using this method. Because your participants morph their ideas into something different or more substantial when you impose a new perspective. For extensive instructions and method variation, see the sourcebook.

Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats (+ One)

Edward de Bono Six Thinking Hats Comments

  • White Hat: The white hat also covers listening, questioning, and defining the information you would like to have, but do not have yet.
  • Red Hat: The red hat gives permission to forward hunches without needing to justify them.
  • Yellow Hat: Why you think something will work; the savings, the benefits, and the advantages; usually forward thinking.
  • Green Hat: The green hat proposals, suggestions, ideas, alternatives, provocations, and what interesting in an idea. It makes time and space available for creative thinking.
  • Blue Hat: Looks not at the subject of the thinking but at the thinking itself and is used for building, managing, and concluding the process, including using and sequencing use of the other hats.
  • Black Hat: The black hat makes us consider the reasons why something may not work, why it may be illegal, why it may go wrong , or why it’ s not worth doing but the reason must be logical (if it’ s emotional , that is a red hat).
  • Purple Hat: NOTE: We modified the hats by including the seventh Purple or Royal hat. The Royal hat reflects the perspective of the owner who is both committed and invested in the meeting output and project outcome. Has tremendous difficulty switching perspectives because they own return on the investment.

Edward de Bono Six Thinking Hats Options

Use Dr de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats approach to force perspective and capture new ideas:

  • You may assign a hat (see perspectives above) to the entire group or a different hat to each person and then rotate the hats to encourage more ideas.
  • Use any and all hats as often as you like.
  • There is no need to use every hat.
  • Provide varying sequences of two, three, four, or more hats at once.
  • As session leader (ie, methodologist), you may permit either a pre-set order or one that is evolving. Do not, however, facilitate the sequence (ie, facilitating method). Do not ask your participants which hat(s) they would like to wear. They do not know and rely on your expertise for the method.
  • You may also use Post-It® notes to have participants individually capture a bunch of ideas. As session leader, transpose the notes so that all are legible for the participants, preferably during a quick break.
  • You may prefer to not use all the hats, and you may shape the definitions based on your own situation, but use some type of visual prompt to explain the perspectives you are assigning.

Mosaic Facilitation Sequence: Using the Hats

A meeting may start with everyone assuming the Blue hat and agree on the meeting goals and objectives. The discussion may then move to Red hat thinking in order to collect opinions and reactions to the problem. This phase may also develop constraints for the actual solution such as who will be affected by the problem and/or solutions. Next the discussion may move to the Yellow then Green hat in order to generate ideas and possible solutions. Next the discussion may move between White hat thinking as part of developing information and Black hat thinking to develop criticisms of the solution set.

Because everyone is focused on a particular approach at any one time, the group tends to be more collaborative than if one person is reacting emotionally (Red hat) while another person is trying to be objective (White hat) and still another person is being critical of the points which emerge from the discussion (Black hat).

NOTE: Mosaic licenses the paragraph above under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Conclusion

Effective facilitation does not rely on the use of ‘hats.’ However, changing participants’ perspectives is guaranteed to create more robust deliverables.

“The power in this technique lies with getting all ideas and perspectives out on the table with everyone thinking and collaborating in a parallel and productive way.” — Baker

Please note that since our original posting, some readers have commented that de Bono borrowed heavily from Alex Osborn’s writings on Applied Imagination and Creative Thinking. So also see “Your Creative Power: How to Use Imagination” (1948) by Alex F. Osborn. Others have referenced Michael Hewitt-Gleeson, co-founder of School of Thinking (SOT) in 1979. Both co-authored the School of Thinking blueprint for training thinking instructors and published Learn-To-Think: Coursebook and Instructor’s Manual.

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Take a class or forward this to someone who should. MG RUSH  professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practicing methodology. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools before class concludes. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.

Therefore Become Part of the Solution While You Improve Your Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology Skills

MG RUSH Professional Facilitation curriculum provides an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, 40 CDUs from IIBA, and 3.2 CEUs. As a member of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), our Professional Facilitation, our training fully aligns with IAF Certification and International Institute for Facilitation (INIFAC) principles. Consequently, our professional curriculum fully prepares alumni for their Certified Professional Facilitator designation.

Furthermore, all of our classes immerse students in the responsibilities and dynamics of effective facilitation and methodology. Nobody is smarter than everybody so attend an MG RUSH  Professional Facilitation, Leadership, and Methodology workshop offered around the world. For additional details, see MG RUSH  for a current schedule.

Go to the Facilitation Training Store to access proven in-house resources. Because there you will discover fully annotated agendas, break timers, and templates. Finally, take a few seconds to buy us a cup of coffee and please SHARE with others.

In conclusion, we dare you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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4 Comments

    • While the word “stole” may, or may not be harsh, we appended this article with reference to Michael Hewitt-Gleeson. Presumably there are more than two sources suggesting a seventh hat. Our purple hat is the only Royal or “owner” hat thus far encountered.

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