Six Thinking Hats
Whenever we weigh up complex decisions, it can be easy to miss crucial perspectives. In the words of psychologist and author De Bono: "The main difficulty of thinking is confusion, where we try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope and creativity all crowd in on us. It’s like juggling too many balls." So how do we balance different perspectives? And ensure we don't drop the ball?
Six Thinking Hats
The 'Six Thinking Hats' is a simple framework for analysing decisions from different lenses. Created by psychologist De Bono to help us dissect complex situations, the six hats each represent a different perspective. The idea is to "wear" each hat and weigh up decisions in a structured manner.
⚪ White hat = Data. Here, we gather as much information as possible and analyse the data. This approach is all about rationality.
🟢 Green hat = Creativity. Here, we let our imaginations run free and generate ideas without poking holes in them. Otherwise known as divergent thinking, this is a space to be as creative with options and solutions.
🔴 Red hat = Emotions and hunches. How do we feel about this? This is a space for intuition and hearing how people emotionally react to the situation. It's a great way to bring emotions into a rational process.
🟡 Yellow hat = Optimism. What are the benefits? This is a space for seeing the opportunities and pros of the decisions on the table.
⚫ Black hat = Problems, risks and obstacles. What are the cons? This is a space to be critical. Here, we might imagine the worst case scenario and explore what might not work.
🔵 Blue hat = The process. This hat is a little different to the others. It's more about the process of using the hats. e.g. In a meeting, you might assign the blue hat to the facilitator and it becomes their job to move the group forward e.g. Shift the thinking or discussion to a different hat.
How It Works
Depending on whether you're working solo, or in a group there are a few ways to use it.
If you're working solo, you can "wear" different hats and look at decisions through each.
If you're in a group, you can assign different hats to everyone to get a balanced discussion. Or you can run through the perspectives as a group.
Why It Works
Confusion often emerges when complex situations are weighed up. Debono notes that there two main benefits of this method. It allows us to:
Think through one thing at a time. By moving through each hat, it ensures every angle is covered and gives validity to each perspective. If using in a group, it gives structure to conversations removing the back and forth which can lead to circular debates.
Switch in thinking. People tend to wear the black hat (arguably one of the most useful) but the problem is by poking holes in ideas that aren't fully explored, it can short-circuit creativity. By constraining it as one hat, it gives permission to switch modes of thinking. e.g. The facilitator (blue hat) can respectfully move the conversation to a different perspective.
The Six Thinking Hats is a simple framework for analysing decisions from different lenses. Making decisions in complex spaces can lead to confusion. By using this method, we can move through complex spaces in a structured manner and think through each perspective deeply.