The 6 thinking hats method

Have you heard about the 6 thinking hats technique? Find out all about this creative dynamic, very useful in professional settings.

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz on December 01, 2021.

Last update: December 01, 2021

The 6 thinking hats method is a technique to stimulate the lateral thinking that has become popular in the last two decades. It is a very practical dynamic that has countless applications in real life. Although it is often associated with the business environment, in reality in dozens of contexts its benefits can be harnessed.

As a creative dynamic, the 6 Thinking Hats can be used by children, youth and adults. Although it is free of complexities, it is not uncommon for questions to arise about how to apply it or what it consists of. Today we present everything you should know from what science says regarding its effectiveness.

What is the 6 thinking hats method?

The 6 Thinking Hats Method is a technique introduced by Maltese psychologist Edward de Bono in his book Six Thinking Hats (1985). It consists of a group dynamic that allows participants to toggle between multiple purpose-oriented thought processes.

Researchers continue to point out its effectiveness in building brainstorming, guiding decision-making at critical moments, and mediating the resolution of organizational problems. In addition to this, the 6 thinking hats technique can also be useful for the following:

  • Develop leadership skills.
  • Encourage critical thinking.
  • Improve project management.
  • Increase productivity.
  • Approach a problem from different points of view.
  • Facilitate group communication.
  • Move participants out of their comfort zone.

In short, it is a very useful dynamic that is used in business environments, in schools, in universities and in any situation that warrants solving a problem. It allows evaluating these from different angles and involve all participants in the process to achieve a more plural result.

How do you use the 6 thinking hats method?

In work environments it is very important to evaluate each of the aspects of the decisions that are made, for which different techniques can be chosen.

As its name indicates, the dynamic consists of 6 colored hats. Each of these represents a pattern of thought, one that the wearer must assume and interpret during the dynamics. The hats alternate between the participants, but not before offering a vision from the point of view of the hat on duty.

The traditional colors of the hats are white, yellow, black, red, green and blue. Of course, these colors are referential and can be represented in various ways (colored ties, for example). Let’s see what the colors mean and what role their bearer should represent.

White hat

Who wears the white hat takes care of offer and gather information from an objective or neutral point of view. Said in this way it seems a simple thing, although in practice sticking to this criterion can be complicated.

Your bearer will draw on the facts to tackle a problem, methodically analyzing all the tangible variables at his disposal. It does not use assumptions, nor does it work with information that is not on the table.

Whoever wears the white hat will be in charge of analyzing the data rigorously, without making a judgment of personal value at some point. He is also responsible for collecting the posture of others, processing it and summarizing it. It is sometimes called factual hat.

Yellow Hat

The person wearing the yellow hat will take care of assess the facts from an optimistic logical point of view. This is in order with its color, since the wearer is in charge of offering light, brightness and clarity to the panorama in front of him.

All the analysis that is part of the basis of positivism, so that the glass will always be half full. Of course, this should always be done from a realistic standpoint as long as the negative aspect of the project, solution or problem is never addressed.

The ideas that are contributed will contrast with the others in the group, and will encourage that the benefits are valued over the disadvantages. It is also known as optimist’s hat.

Black hat

Contrary to the previous case, the black hat assesses the landscape from a pessimistic logical prism. Whoever wears this hat will be in charge of pointing out the risks, difficulties, consequences and losses that assuming a certain decision may represent.

He is also in charge of pointing out the concerns, doubts, and variables that have not yet been highlighted; as well as inviting others to assume a cautious attitude towards the situation. It is also known as the judge’s hat.

Red Hat

The one who wears the red hat must take advantage of all that the subjective terrain has to offer: hunches, beliefs and confidence.

In the dynamics of the 6 hats to think about, the red hat values ​​the facts through intuition and feelings. Therefore, and contrary to all the others, it evaluates the panorama only through a subjective approach. In this way, you can make assumptions and unleash hunches.

The ideas presented need not be rationally justified. It is enough that they are based on emotions to be valid, even when this implies contrasting with all those that have been given. It is important to note that it is not based only on positive emotions; negative emotions can also be contributed.

For example, feelings of approval, happiness, and joy can be contributed; but also of disgust, fear and fear. It is a very versatile hat, since it allows you to embody a bit of everyone else; although always from subjectivity. It is also known as heart hat.

Green hat

Whoever wears the green hat on his head will be in charge of contributing new ideas to the group. Its bearer will explore as many ideas as possible, so that these are outlined as an alternative to the main one. It consists of assuming a creative role to build new paths to advance.

Put aside conservatism, measure, comfort and security to risk considering new horizons. Among all those that make up the dynamics of the 6 thinking hats, it is the one that best encourages lateral thinking.

This hat invites us to leave the comfort zone, to avoid settling for a single solution and to motivate us to always think of several alternatives. Whoever uses it should contribute as many ideas as possible, as long as those are reasonable according to what is being discussed. It is also known as creative hat.

Blue hat

Finally, the dynamics is complemented by the blue hat. He works like a conductor: he controls the entire process and directs the contributions made by the group.. In this sense, whoever uses it will be in charge of writing down ideas, distributing the word, investigating more about a contribution and drawing conclusions.

Ultimately, whoever wears the blue hat is in charge of managing the dynamics and ensuring that it is fulfilled as stipulated. It is a symbol of structured thinking and, although it does not make direct contributions, by acting as a moderator it can ask questions or ask for more insight into an ambiguous idea of ​​a participant.

As we have pointed out, the dynamics of the 6 thinking hats consists of alternating hats. If they are sitting in a room, the hats can be switched from right to left, thus maintaining order to avoid confusion.

There is no time limit for this technique. It all depends on the seriousness and commitment with which it is assumed. For example, they may spend several hours (or even days) discussing ideas in a single round, or the round may be exhausted in just a quarter of an hour.

Finally, remember that the dynamic is not limited to six people. They can form groups of two, three or four people with the same hat; so that between them they take a moment to contrast the contributions. Do not stop using it if you want to evaluate different points of view towards the same problem.

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