If you haven’t read the book by Edward de Bono: Six Thinking Hats, or studied his concept about lateral thinking, you should. Edward 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.
Edward de Bono Method 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. Groups and individuals make a higher quality decisions when provided with more options. The perspectives driving Edward de Bono: Six Thinking Hats also makes it easier to generate more ideas, thus increasing the likelihood of higher quality outputs.
This article cannot even attempt to do justice to de Bono’s nearly 200-page book. However, you can make it easier for your 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 Six Thinking Hats Comments
- White Hat: Covers listening, questioning, and defining the information you would like to have, but do not have yet.
- 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: Proposals, suggestions, ideas, alternatives, provocations, and what is interesting in an idea.
- 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 red hat).
- Purple Hat: We added a 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. May have difficulty switching perspectives because they own return on the investment.
Edward de Bono Six Thinking Hats Variations
- 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.
- Some claim better better results from insisting that everyone wear the same color hat at the same time because it ensures everyone is looking in the same direction at the same time.
- 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 definitions for the hats based on your own situation, but use some type of visual legend or graphical 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 presents potential constraints for the actual solution such as stakkeholders 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.
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.
Don’t ruin your career or reputation with bad meetings. Register for a class or forward this to someone who should. Taught by world-class instructors, MG RUSH professional facilitation curriculum focuses on practice. Each student thoroughly practices and rehearses tools, methods, and approaches throughout the week. While some call this immersion, we call it the road to building impactful facilitation skills.
Our courses also provide an excellent way to earn up to 40 SEUs from the Scrum Alliance, 40 PDUs from PMI, and 40 CDUs from IIBA, as well as 3.2 CEUs for other professions. (See individual class descriptions for details.)
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- A “Plan” May Be Defined as “Who Does What (and When)” and Answers 10 Questions (mgrush.com/blog)
- Parallel Thinking with Six Thinking Hats (spin.atomicobject.com)
- The Meeting is the Message: Every Meeting Speaks Win or Loss (mgrush.com/blog)