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How can six thinking hats help you on a daily basis?

Last updated Monday, March 13, 2023 15:30 ET , Source: Miro

According to Dr. Edward de Bono, when we try to use all of our thinking functions at once, the process - and, therefore, the results - are a mess.

Amsterdam, Netherlands, 03/13/2023 / SubmitMyPR /

"Six thinking hats" is a book by Maltese psychologist Dr. Edward de Bono, published in 1985. De Bono wrote many theories about thinking processes and how to make them efficient and creative, and this one is arguably his most famous. The central interpretation here is that our brains have different patterns in which our ideas flow, and de Bono divides them into six categories - each represented by a hat.

According to him, when we try to use all of our thinking functions at once, the process - and, therefore, the results - are a mess. When we wear each hat one after the other, he maintains, things become much easier.

The concept underpinning the six thinking hats theory is lateral thinking. Each one concentrates on a specific part of what is under scrutiny, and the pieces of the puzzle are uncovered and put together accordingly. This is essential for organizing the brainstorming process, and for working in groups, where different people can be responsible for wearing different hats, thus making the decision-making process more inclusive and diversified, and putting distinct perspectives in play.

Besides lending structure to brainstorming sessions, the six thinking hats method is useful for:

  • Increasing productivity.
  • Making better and more confident decisions.
  • Improving communication between members of a group.

Let’s look at each of the six thinking hats in turn, and why they are so valuable.

The six thinking hats

Blue Hat

When working in a group, the blue hat is supposed to be worn by whoever controls the process, in order to organize the flow of tasks, what each member will take care of, the path of action, and the agenda. This hat is vital for defining the problem at hand and how to tackle it, and for leading the group.

The blue hat wearer usually starts the discussion, and can call upon the other hats when required to guide the discussion. Using a decision tree creator is a great way to keep this process organized and straightforward for everybody involved.

White Hat

The white hat works with the facts at hand, and will be expected to organize all available data on a specific subject, understand which fundamental elements are missing and how to obtain them. This knowledge is based on evidence, so white hat wearers need to cut out any bias and keep things impartial and accurate.

Yellow Hat

The yellow hat wearer should remain optimistic, and focus on all possible positive outcomes. This is useful for staying motivated, but also for assessing the value which a given idea can generate. When faced with a difficult challenge, things can get stressful and gloomy, and the yellow hat helps you to clear the black clouds from your mind and let the sun shine in.

When wearing it, think about how the outcome of the idea can help you in the long term, what practical uses it has, and how it can be achieved successfully.

Green Hat

This is the one to put on when you need to think outside the box. When wearing the green hat, there’s no such thing as a bad idea. It's the perfect mindset to create by experimenting, trying out different perspectives, and developing unique solutions and processes.

Not all ideas are helpful, of course, but now is not the time to think about that. The green hat helps you open a free flow of views and options, no matter how crazy they may seem at first.

Red Hat

The important thing here is to pay attention to your emotions, and what your gut is telling you. Understanding one’s reactions to the idea you are working on is useful when considering how an audience will welcome it, for instance. Embracing your intuition can be handy for generating new insights that would not arise from reason alone. This applies not just to the creative process but also to the possible outcomes of the idea itself.

Black Hat

Caution and critical thinking are always required when working on a project, so it’s not compromised by obvious mistakes. That is where the black hat comes in. Some call it the “risk management hat”, others the “pessimistic hat”.

In any case, the wearer must consider the worst-case scenarios for each project, as a preventative measure. Identify all the weak points, and how they could negatively impact the results, in order to correct them ahead of time. Acknowledging flaws early on makes it easier to address them and keep the project on track. As the saying goes: better safe than sorry.


The whole point of the six-thinking hats method is to wear them one at a time, so naturally, many people wonder what order they should use them in. There is no correct answer. Each group decides the best way to operate, but here are some suggestions that may prove useful:

  • · Pitching ideas from scratch: Blue, White, Green, Blue.
  • · Problem-solving: Blue, White, Green, Red, Yellow, Green, Blue.
  • · Choosing between different ways to proceed: Blue, White, Green, Yellow, Black, Red, Blue.
  • · Examining a completed job: Blue, Red, White, Yellow, Black, Green, Blue.

The procedure is creative and encourages out-of-the-box thinking, so feel free to deploy it in any order you want. Indeed, each of the six thinking hats can be worn multiple times during the same process.


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