Book Review of Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

This Book Review of Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono is brought to you from Kirsten Williamson from the Titans of Investing.

Genre: Medical Social Psychology & Interactions
Author
: Edward de Bono
Title: Six Thinking Hats (Buy the Book)

Summary

The Six Thinking Hats method may be the most important change in human thinking in the past twenty- three hundred years. The method is widespread because it is simple, robust, and effective. For instance, Statoil faced an oilrig issue costing about one hundred thousand dollars a day, but using the Six Hats, the problem was solved in twelve minutes.

Most importantly, this method can be taught with equal success to both top-level executives and preschoolers. Because confusion is the central difficulty in thinking, the Six Hats method focuses on one thing at a time. The Six Hats method emphasizes, “what can be” rather than “what is” to help design a way forward, not argue over who is right or wrong.

The hats allow us to fully explore a subject and addtionally incorporate assessment; therefore, the Six Hats method creates a “map” that outlines all factors and from there the route becomes obvious. Decisions seem to make themselves.

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Each hat is assigned a color – white, red, black, yellow, green, and blue – which makes it easier for thinkers to visualize wearing the hats. Generally, there are two ways to use the hats. First, the hats can be used separately, as symbols, to formally request a certain type of thinking. Second, the hats can be used sequentially to explore a subject or solve a problem.

The hats can be used as often as liked. There is no need to use every hat, since sequences can be made up of any number of hats. When using sequences, it is imperative to focus on discipline, timing, and guidelines. While the benefits of the Six Thinking Hats method are most striking in a group setting, the hats can be used by individuals and even in reports in order to reduce confusion and fully cover all bases.

The White Hat

When we think of the color white, we think of paper or a computer printout. The white hat is objective, neutral, and used for reporting. It does not generate ideas. When wearing the white hat, we should focus exclusively and directly on information.

We use the white hat at the beginning of the thinking session in order to give a background and at the end of the session to assess whether the proposals asserted fit in with existing information. Finally, the white hat does not allow for argument, but rather, puts down all information in parallel. The purpose of the white hat is to have a way of asking only for objective information.

The Red Hat

When we think of the color red, we tend to think of fire and warmth. Under the red hat, a thinker has the opportunity to express feelings, emotions, and intuition without needing to explain or justify them. This makes feelings visible rather than disguising them as logic, which often occurs in business discussions.

Feelings are useful and range from “love it” to “hate it”. Red hat discussions are used at the beginning and the end of a meeting to assess feelings and to see how they have changed, respectively. The overarching purpose of the red hat is to express feelings, as they exist, and never to force a judgment.

The Black Hat

The black hat is the most used and perhaps the most important of all the hats. It is the hat of caution; it prevents us from doing things that are illegal, dangerous, or unprofitable. We need to practice caution effectively to survive, so in this sense the black hat is also the hat of survival.

It is also the basis of critical thinking and illuminates if something “fits” into our experiences, resources, policies, or values. This hat is based on the natural “mismatch” mechanism, which identifies if patterns of expectation meet reality.

The Yellow Hat

When we think of the color yellow, we tend to think of sunshine and optimism. Under the yellow hat, a thinker is obligated to find the benefits of a suggestion and identify ways to enable an idea. This hat is positive and constructive because it forces thinkers to look for value.

Where the black hat is concerned with negative assessment, the yellow hat is concerned with positive assessment. Creative processes must develop “value sensitivity”, or equivocating our sensitivity to value to our sensitivity to danger. The yellow hat lays out concrete proposals, values effectiveness, is speculative, and permits dreams.

The Green Hat

When we think of the color green, we tend to think of growth and new leaves. The green hat is the energy hat and the creative hat. Under this hat, we introduce new ideas, options, and alternatives. We also modify and improve suggested ideas. Creativity is a key ingredient in thinking.

A fundamental aspect of green hat thinking is the search for alternatives, which is furthered by creative pauses. Green hat thinking also replaces judgment with movement, incorporates provocation, and utilizes lateral thinking. The green hat overcomes difficulties put forth by the black hat.

The Blue Hat

When we think of the color blue, we tend to think of the sky and an overview. This hat is for thinking about thinking. It is used for the management of thinking, the organization of thinking, and process control. It sets the focus, lays out the agenda and “strategy” for thinking, maintains discipline for thinking, and sets up sequential thinking.

In general, the permanent facilitator wears the blue hat; however, anyone, including the entire group, can wear the blue hat. The blue hat asks for an outcome at the end of a session in the form of a summary, conclusion, or solution.

The Six Hats method creates a map that outlines all factors and from there the route becomes obvious. If it is impossible to make a decision, then the blue hat should articulate why this is not possible and define a new thinking focus. In the end, all decisions are really “red hat” because final decisions are emotional. The Six Hats method is simple to understand and use, since complexity is the biggest enemy to thinking.

There are two central purposes for this method. First, the Six Hats method allows thinkers to focus on one thing at a time in order to simplify thinking. Second, the concept allows a switch in thinking, which preserves the egos and personalities of participants since the idiom can be definite without being offensive.

Introduction

The Six Thinking Hats method may be the most important change in human thinking in the past twenty- three hundred years. The method is widespread because it is simple, robust, and effective. For instance, Statoil faced an oilrig issue costing about one hundred thousand dollars a day, but using the Six Hats method, the problem was solved in twelve minutes.

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Most importantly, this method can be taught with equal success to both top-level executives and preschoolers. Because confusion is the central difficulty in thinking, the Six Hats method focuses on one thing at a time. The Six Hats method emphasizes, “what can be” rather than “what is” to help design a way forward, not argue over who is right or wrong.

The hats allow us to fully explore a subject and addtionally incorporate assessment; therefore, the Six Hats method creates a “map” that outlines all factors and from there the route becomes obvious. Decisions seem to make themselves.

The brain cannot be pre-sensitized in different directions at the same time, but the Six Hats method allows the brain to maximize sensitivity in different directions at different times. Western thinking is based on the philosophies of the Greek “Gang of Three” – Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Therefore, Western thinking is based on analysis, judgment, and argument in order to find “what is”.

Contrastingly, the Six Hats method is based on constructive thinking, creative thinking, and “designing a way forward” to find “what can be”.

It prescribes parallel thinking, meaning that at any moment everyone is looking in the same direction. For example, if four individuals stand on separate sides of a house – front, back, and sides – they each have different views. However, if they view each side together as a group, they all have a full view of the house.

This method combats argument by putting contradictory views down in parallel. Additionally, parallel thinking makes the fullest use of everyone’s intelligence and experience by pointing everyone in one direction at a time.

The hats are used to change the direction of thinking, and each hat is a particular direction of thinking that emphasizes designing a way forward, not describing what has happened. The hats are advantageous because each can be easily removed or put on, and they are visible to everyone present.

While people may prefer or be more adept in one hat over another, the hats are never used to define categories of people. Everyone can wear every hat. The Six Hats method follows Confucius’ focus on behavior rather than personality, making it far more effective, quick, and acceptable. The Six Hats method is powerful because it gets people to “play the game”.

Thinkers are forced to follow the rules or are considered uncooperative. The results of the Six Hats method fall into four categories – power, time saving, removal of ego, and one thing at a time.

Six Hats, Six Colors

Each hat is assigned a color – white, red, black, yellow, green, and blue – which makes it easier for thinkers to visualize wearing the hats. Hats should always be referred to by their color and never by their function because the colors enforce neutrality and allow the hats to be used without embarrassment.

Using the Hats

Generally, there are two ways to use the hats. First, the hats can be used separately, as symbols, to formally request a certain type of thinking. Second, the hats can be used sequentially to explore a subject or solve a problem. The hats can be used as often as liked. There is no need to use every hat, since sequences can be made up of any number of hats.

There are two types of sequences: evolving and preset.

In an evolving sequence, a facilitator typically chooses a first hat, and thinkers move to the next hat once each hat is completed. This is recommended only for experienced users of the Six Hats method.

Otherwise, thinkers may spend excessive amounts of time arguing over which hat to use next rather than thinking about the subject itself, or thinkers may believe the facilitator has manipulated them in order to push forward his or her own agenda.

The preset sequence, which is organized at the start of the meeting under an initial blue hat, and only incorporates minor variations, is recommended for inexperienced users of the Six Hats method.

When using sequences, it is imperative to focus on discipline, timing, and guidelines. Discipline ensures all group members keep on the requested hat. Shorter time allotments, generally spanning one minute per person under each hat, are encouraged and can be extended only if genuine points are being given. While there is no one correct sequence, guidelines ensure that sequences make sense as a “thinking strategy”, are valid, and will work.

A blue hat should be used at the beginning and end of a thinking session.

Then, a red hat should be used if it is believed that there are predisposed feelings that need to be made immediately visible. When assessing ideas, putting on the yellow hat before the black hat allows thinkers to value an idea first and can motivate thinkers to overcome difficulties or obstacles later identified under the black hat.

Finally, thinkers may want to put on a red hat after the final blue hat to evaluate their “thinking performance” at the end of a thinking session. While the benefits of the Six Thinking Hats method are most striking in a group setting, the hats can be used by individuals and even in reports in order to reduce confusion and fully cover all bases. It is sometimes beneficial to ask group members to think individually to maximize idea generation, especially under the green, yellow, and black hats.

The White Hat Overview

When we think of the color white, we think of paper or a computer printout. The white hat is objective, neutral, and used for reporting. It does not generate ideas. When wearing the white hat, we should focus exclusively and directly on information. We need to focus on what information we are missing, what information is needed, and what questions need to be asked.

We use the white hat at the beginning of the thinking session in order to give a background and at the end of the session to assess whether the proposals asserted fit in with existing information. Information in these sessions can range from hard facts and figures to soft opinions and feelings.

When wearing the white hat we note that we are only reporting on the expression of others’ feelings, since all personal expressions are reserved for the red hat. Finally, the white hat does not allow for argument, but rather, puts down all information in parallel. The purpose of the white hat is to have a way of asking only for objective information.

Facts and Figures

Information under the white hat is not utilized for argumentative purposes, as facts and figures should only be presented objectively and neutrally. The Six Hats theory states that we need to make a map first and then choose the route. Therefore, we need the facts first.

It is possible to overwhelm the asker with too much information from facts and figures; for example, the charges were dropped in a massive antitrust case against IBM, allegedly because IBM deluged judicial officials with excessive documentation.

In order to combat an overflow of information, those wearing the white hat must frame all questions precisely, so they can bring forth the needed information. This hat involves a high level of skill, perhaps more than any other hat. It becomes a discipline that forces thinkers to separate fact from interpretation.

Two Tiered System of Facts

Under the white hat, we need to separate information into believed facts and checked facts. Believed facts are comments made in good faith. For example, a thinker may express a believed fact by saying “I think I am right in saying that the Russian merchant fleet carries a significant portion of world trade”.

Believed facts are allowed because the tentative, the hypothetical, and the provocative are essential to providing a framework for thinking; however, we must remember that these are considered second-class facts and, additionally, that opinions are never allowed under white hat thinking.

Before we are able to act on a fact, we must assess its usefulness and then continue on to verify it. In doing this, we identify checked or proven facts, which are first-class facts. It is imperative that no fact is put forward at a higher level than it is actually worth.

Truth vs. Fact

Truth is linked to philosophy, while a fact is linked to checkable experience. White hat thinking involves a spectrum of likelihood that ranges from “always true” to “never true” and incorporates mid-levels, like “by and large” and “on the whole”. For example, if a person has only ever seen white swans, an assertion that “all swans are white” is factual.

If a person then sees a black swan, he or she could then factually assert, “by and large swans are white”. Statistics give these idioms more precision. It is acceptable to offer anecdotal information under the white hat, so long as these facts are framed as “anecdotes” or “instances”.

The Red Hat Overview

When we think of the color red, we tend to think of fire and warmth. Under the red hat, a thinker has the opportunity to express feelings, emotions, and intuition without needing to explain or justify them. This makes feelings visible rather than disguising them as logic, which often occurs in business discussions. Feelings are useful and range from “love it” to “hate it”.

This hat also covers intellectual feelings such as, “I feel that the idea has potential”.

Red hat discussions are used at the beginning and the end of a meeting to assess feelings and to see how they have changed, respectively. The red hat must be clearly applied to a specific idea or situation, which may not be changed.

Each thinker contributes on an individual basis and is allowed to pass. There are two broad types of feelings: ordinary emotions and complex judgments. The overarching purpose of the red hat is to express feelings, as they exist, and never to force a judgment.

The Place of Emotions and Feelings in Thinking

The non-rational aspects of thinking are a legitimate component in making the map. Red hat discussions formally bring emotions, feelings, hunches, and intuitions into the open, thereby preventing them from lurking in the background and affecting thinking in a hidden way.

Generally, emotions are accused of “mucking up” thinking, and therefore a good thinker should be objective, neutral, and detached. However, all decisions are emotional in their finality, since the route we choose on the map is ultimately decided by our values and emotions.

Emotion can affect thinking at three points.

Firstly, there may be strong background emotions that shape our perception. Red hat thinking exposes these, so we can observe their influence. Secondly, initial perceptions trigger emotions and these snap judgments become the emotions we release later.

Red hat thinking brings these biases to the surface immediately. Thirdly, emotions affect what route will be taken on the map, since every decision has a value base, and we react emotionally to values. The red hat legitimizes these emotions and gives them space on the final map. Additionally, a thinker can put on the red hat in the privacy of his or her own mind to bring out hidden emotions in a legitimate way.

Intuition and Hunches

Intuition can be used correctly in two ways. The first is perception, or a sense of sudden insight, differing from moment to moment. This propels creativity and forward thinking. The second is the immediate understanding of a situation based on a complex judgment.

This is formed through experience and cannot be articulated, making intuition valuable. Intuition is fallible, as is demonstrated in gambling when a roulette player’s intuition suggests that a black will come next after three reds in a row.

In reality, the odds are actually the same. However, if intuition has been right more often than it has been wrong, the overall result will be positive. Since we cannot fully analyze the reasons behind intuition, we cannot base entire decisions on it and should instead incorporate it into the map.

A hunch is defined as a hypothesis based on intuition.

Emotions and intuition are treated as feelings under the red hat. Feelings range from aesthetic feelings to a defined judgment. Successful people tend to have a “feel” for situations and can detect subtle factors. Opinions should be expressed under the red hat as a feeling; for example, “my feeling is that boredom is responsible for much juvenile crime.”

Moment to Moment

Red hat feelings can be shown at any time in a meeting and can address the conduct of the meeting itself in addition to the subject being discussed. The artificiality associated with the red hat‘s interruption of the natural flow of emotions provides its real value because this allows participants to switch in and out of emotions momentarily. Points of view discussed become less personal and bickering is quelled because there is a formal channel for emotions and feelings are clearly expressed.

The Use of Emotions

While thinking can change emotions, efforts to change emotions once they are visible are not part of red hat thinking. Alterations in perception, not logic, contribute to the shift in emotions. A background for thinking can be created from expressed emotions.

Every so often, it is beneficial to imagine a different emotional background in order to determine how circumstances would change. Emotions and feelings color the map and provide “regions” to highlight emotional points of view. Bargaining positions can be established from emotions because values differ between parties, but this principle of variable value in negotiation can be expressed directly under red hat thinking.

Overall, the believed purpose of thinking is to satisfy the thinker, thereby satisfying the thinker’s expressed emotions; there are three areas where difficulty exists. First, one must determine if proposed actions truly attempt to satisfy expressed desires. Second, difficulties arise if the satisfaction of one party comes at the expense of another. Third, conflict arises between short-term and long-term satisfaction.

Language of Emotions

Red hat thinking ascribes that the justification of expressed emotions, whether true or false, is unnecessary. Under the red hat, we are not obligated to rationalize why we feel a certain way, since emotions are not treated as an extension of logic. Furthermore, it is asserted that people may favor an abstract idea but disagree once that idea is described concretely.

For example, a majority may be in favor of involvement in Central America, but a majority may disagree with every method proposed. The red hat is a mirror, not a trumpet, that reflects the complexity of emotions. It also allows us to fine-tune our emotions in order to match the situation. Overall, it gives feelings the right to be made visible.

The Black Hat Overview

The black hat is the most used and perhaps the most important of all the hats. It is the hat of caution; it prevents us from doing things that are illegal, dangerous, or unprofitable. We need to practice caution effectively to survive, so in this sense the black hat is also the hat of survival.

It is also the basis of critical thinking and illuminates if something “fits” into our experiences, resources, policies, or values. Therefore, it is also the basis of Western civilization. This hat is based on the natural “mismatch” mechanism, which identifies if patterns of expectation meet reality and alarms us if they do not to ensure we do not make mistakes.

It points out whether to proceed with an idea in the assessment process and what the weaknesses to overcome are in the design process. It also identifies future risks and potential issues, as well as errors in procedural thinking processes. The black hat must be used to the fullest in the allotted time, but must be moved away from at all other times to avoid abuse.

Cautious and Careful

The black hat, the “natural” hat of traditional Western thinking, uses logic to point out what is wrong, what does not fit, and what will not work to avoid breaking laws as well as wasting money or energy.

Emotional components are not useful.

Reasoning under this hat must be logical and objectively substantial. Additionally, the brain is sensitized in the direction of caution and potential dangers, issues, or obstacles. Therefore, black hat thinking is endorsed as a single mode of thinking to be used properly and effectively and is not balanced because a thinker cannot think in both directions effectively.

Furthermore, black hat thinking is dependent on circumstantial context. For example, a black hat comment would be “this car is capable of going only fifty miles per hour” if we expect cars to go faster. The black hat is used in both the assessment and design of an idea, as it helps someone decide whether to continue with an idea and points out the weaknesses in an idea to help resolve them, respectively.

Content and Process

Although the Six Hats method is not argument based and does not rely on a discussion of the process, thinkers can identify deficiencies in the process itself under the black hat. However, participants may only make black hat comments during the time allotted and may not interrupt otherwise with such comments.

For example, if someone presents sales figures under the white hat, and another thinker knows these figures are five years old, that thinker should only respond with a white hat comment. The Six Hats method is not about arguing different points, but rather, filling the field with possibilities that are laid down alongside one another in parallel and present likelihood to endorse logical deduction. Eventually, there will be a clear map of obstacles, problems, and difficulties.

The Past and the Future

The black hat has an obligation to perform risk assessment. It also differentiates academic thinking, which consists of descriptions, analysis, and explanatory procedures, from real world thinking, which incorporates an action element called operacy.

Our own experiences and the experiences of others form the basis of our speculations on the future. Thinkers must ensure that the lessons from these experiences are relevant, based on current circumstances.

Some points of view may be valid based on experience, but can only be placed under either the yellow or black hat. It is also possible to use yellow hat comments under the black hat in order to challenge that statement.

The Problem of Overuse

Generally, critical thinking emerges more naturally than constructive thinking. For example, if 95% of an idea is excellent, the tendency is to focus on the 5% that is not. This criticism is useful at the design stage; however, at the assessment stage it is more useful to acknowledge excellence.

While we need to recognize the importance of the black hat, it is not beneficial to overuse it. As thinkers become more accustomed to using the Six Hats method, they become proficient under multiple hats and are able to switch more easily.

The Yellow Hat Overview

When we think of the color yellow, we tend to think of sunshine and optimism. Under the yellow hat, a thinker is obligated to find the benefits of a suggestion and identify ways to enable an idea. This hat is positive and constructive because it forces thinkers to look for value.

Where the black hat is concerned with negative assessment, the yellow hat is concerned with positive assessment, which is more difficult because our brains are naturally programmed to avoid dangers and not to find positives.

Creative processes must develop “value sensitivity”, or equivocating our sensitivity to value to our sensitivity to danger. The yellow hat uses logic. It is a judgment hat and not based on fantasy. It lays out concrete proposals, values effectiveness, is speculative, and permits visions and dreams.

Speculative Positive

It is a conscious choice to have a positive mindset and to identify benefits. Positive thinking is defined as a combination of curiosity, pleasure, greed, and the desire to “make things happen”. The term “speculative positive” insinuates that any plan is forward looking and is therefore uncertain, since we must speculate as to what might happen.

Our assessment of the “worth” of a plan contributes to the “positive” aspect of “speculative-positive”.

Positive thinking is strongly influenced by self-interest. For example, people are generally positive when putting forth their own ideas. Under the yellow hat, positive thinking precedes seeing any merit in an idea and is deliberately adopted.

The Positive Spectrum

We must determine at what point optimism becomes foolishness and at what point foolishness becomes hope. Therefore, the yellow hat takes into account likelihood and ranges on a spectrum from “over- optimistic” to “logical-practical”. Impractical dreams and visions can influence progress if they inspire actions to make them a reality.

Focus should be on the action following the optimism. If an action is nothing more than hope, optimism is misplaced, like in the lottery. However, if optimism leads to some directional action, then difficulty arises and confidence is influential in turning expectations into reality.

All suggestions should be on the map and assessed for likelihood ranging from “proven” to “remote or long shot”. Thinkers can later choose to improve the odds or reject the idea. Otherwise there is no choice.

Reasons and Logical Support

Yellow hat thinking should be supported with logic. Otherwise, it is merely a “good feeling” and organized under the red hat. If efforts to justify optimism are unsuccessful, then it is introduced as speculation. The yellow hat explores possible benefits and then seeks to justify them. If logical support is not given here, it will not be given anywhere else.

Constructive Thinking

The yellow hat uses constructive thinking because it is positive in attitude. Constructive thinking asserts proposals in order to enact positive change by solving a problem or making an improvement. Proposals need not be especially clever or special. Reactive thinking identifies positive aspects of an idea.

Therefore, this hat involves facets of generating and positively assessing a proposal. The facet of “building up”, or modifying, a proposal lies between these because it is constructive and often based on weaknesses identified in black hat thinking.

Speculation

Conjecture and hope are key tenets of speculation, which indicate the forward aspects of yellow hat thinking. This thinking goes beyond judgment and proposals, as it seeks possible benefits and values and then explores them. Another speculative factor is opportunity thinking.

This goes beyond problem solving, since people are never forced to, but only free to, seek out opportunities. Speculative thinking originates with the best-case scenario to illustrate the maximum possible benefits; yellow hat thinking can then scale down these benefits using “likelihood” factors.

However, if these benefits are poor, the idea is not worth pursuing. Finally, speculative thinking is concerned with the exploration of “if” changes and vision. A vision goes beyond objective judgment to set directions for thinking and action.

Relation to Creativity

The positive assessment and constructive aspects of yellow hat thinking are a key component to creativity, although creativity is most directly related to green hat thinking. Yellow hat thinking is concerned with the effective application of old ideas and the positive attitude of getting the job done.

It values effectiveness over novelty. The yellow hat is most concerned with the “bringing something about” aspect of creativity. It can define opportunities to be exploited innovatively under the green hat.

The Green Hat Overview

When we think of the color green, we tend to think of growth and new leaves. The green hat is the energy hat and the creative hat. Under this hat, we introduce new ideas, options, and alternatives. We also modify and improve suggested ideas. During this time, everyone, not just the “idea person”, is expected to either make creative efforts or otherwise keep quiet, and people do not like to keep quiet.

Creativity is a key ingredient in thinking.

People are good at meeting expectations, and so they make the expected creative effort until their confidence in this area increases and they become “idea men” themselves. A fundamental aspect of green hat thinking is the search for alternatives, which is furthered by creative pauses.

Green hat thinking also replaces judgment with movement, incorporates provocation, and utilizes lateral thinking. The green hat overcomes difficulties put forth by the black hat.

Creative Thinking

Green hat thinking is concerned with new ideas and perspectives, improving old ideas, and deliberate and focused efforts in this direction. The green hat is perhaps the most needed hat. It is sometimes necessary to introduce deliberately illogical ideas, but we must protect these by clarifying this to others.

Under the green hat, the most important Six Hats method signal is “signaling to yourself”, so thinkers can make creative thinking a formality. Creative thinking challenges the brain’s design as a “recognition machine” of patterns and fit, as it involves “thought experiments” that utilize provocation, exploration, and risk taking.

The green hat does not make people more creative; however, it does provide more time for and focus on creativity and an “artificial motivation”. Green hat thinking demands effort, not input.

Lateral Thinking

The term lateral thinking was invented for two reasons. First, the word creative is defined very broadly and somewhat vaguely, while lateral thinking relates specifically to changing concepts and perceptions. Second, lateral thinking relates to pattern switching in an asymmetric pattern system.

Lateral thinking is dependent on the asymmetric nature of the patterns of perception that form a basis for when something becomes suddenly obvious. It is designed to help us cut across patterns, using perception to reduce the world’s complexity and alter established patterns. It involves attitudes, idioms, steps, and techniques.

Movement Instead of Judgment

Most thinking involves judgment, which focuses on the backward effect of an idea and uses past experiences to assess current ideas. Under the green hat, we replace judgment with movement, suggesting we use an idea for its forward effect. In other words, we move forward from one idea to the next by identifying a particular principle and applying it somewhere else. Furthermore, we use provocation to move from one pattern to another.

The Need for Provocation

Provocation jerks thinking out of its current state and does not exist in current thinking. Its logic stems from that of asymmetric patterning systems. Lateral thinking needs provocations for their movement value. The word po (provocation operation) symbolizes ideas intended to push thinkers out of normal perception patterns by introducing ideas as provocations valued for their movement.

The black hat cannot negate them. Provocation involves three possibilities: the possibility of movement, reversion to habitual patterns, or changing to new patterns. It can be structured formally and include normal ideas or ideas typically dismissed under black hat thinking. Random words are a valuable way to generate provocations.

Alternatives

In thinking, we should acknowledge the first answer but seek out alternatives to find the answer that best fits our needs and resources because this is a fundamental part of thinking. The quality of a decision depends on the alternatives available to a decision maker; therefore, we must make creative efforts to go beyond the set of obvious alternatives.

Green hat thinking makes looking for alternatives more convenient. We usually want to remain within an accepted framework in searching for alternatives, but we should challenge that framework periodically. The most difficult point in creativity is the creative pause, or a point where we halt to consider alternatives even if there is no obvious reason to do so.

Personality and Skill

Creativity is a function of skill, talent, and personality. There is added emphasis on the development of creative skill because it allows thinkers to involve creativity as a normal and necessary part of their process.

Although De Bono believes people cannot alter their personality, he does believe people’s attitude towards creativity changes permanently when shown its logic. Creativity is typically not formalized and is consequently weaker, but the green hat legitimizes it as a necessary part of thinking.

What Happens to Ideas?

The “harvesting” of ideas is one of the weaker aspects of creativity, but a thinker needs to shape and tailor an idea to fill two sets of needs. First, is a situational need, which uses constraints to shape an idea into a usable state rather than reject it.

Second, is a need to meet expectations by acting on an idea. Contradictory to some attitudes, shaping ideas to meet “buyer’s” needs is not dishonest. A concept manager, or someone who shepherds, collects, and stimulates ideas, collects the outputs under this hat.

The Blue Hat Overview

When we think of the color blue, we tend to think of the sky and an overview. This hat is for thinking about thinking. It is like the ringmaster of a circus, and it is used for the management of thinking, the organization of thinking, and process control.

It sets the focus as well as lays out the agenda and “strategy” for thinking at the beginning of a session. Furthermore, it maintains discipline during the session and ensures that the rules of the game are observed. It may also set up sequential thinking. In general, the permanent facilitator wears the blue hat; however, anyone, including the entire group, can wear the blue hat.

The blue hat asks for an outcome at the end of a session in the form of a summary, conclusion, or solution. It can acknowledge any degree of progress and lay out steps for the future.

Control of Thinking

The blue hat is used to think about the thinking needed to explore a subject. It symbolizes overview control as well as detachment and having a cool, controlled mindset. This hat helps us choreograph thinking steps in a detailed and sequential manner to create formally structured thinking.

Thinking often has a background sense of purpose that is never formally articulated and assumes the thinker is intelligent enough choose the best course of action from this. There is also an assumption for the Darwinian evolution of ideas, indicating pre-formed ideas and argumentative discussions rather than mapmaking.

This way of thinking is used for support instead of exploration. Blue hat thinking involves thinking on one’s own in order to develop a procedure.

Focus

The ability to focus is a key aspect of blue hat thinking and often differentiates poor from good thinkers. Focus can be broad, involving several tight foci, or narrow. It is imperative to define focus articulately and monitor it for any drifts.

The simplest way to focus thinking is to ask strategically framed questions. There are two types of questions: fishing and shooting. Fishing questions are exploratory, while shooting questions can be directly answered and are used to check a point.

The timing of questions is vital. In order to efficiently and effectively find a solution, we must adequately define a problem. This is most successfully done by using a range of alternative definitions.

Program Design

Under the blue hat, it is important to design customized software, like that of a computer, in thinking about specific subjects; programs vary depending on the situation. Here we are concerned with the choreography of blue hat thinking. For example, if a subject is highly emotional for a thinker, then red hat thinking should be used first to unearth strong feelings.

The blue hat allows the thinker to organize the sequence, timing, and usage of the different hats in order to optimize the thinking process. The sequence may be complex, but each idiom should flow naturally to the next. Schedules are either predetermined by a facilitator or designed by all present participants at the session.

Summaries and Conclusions

A blue hat wearer is both a choreographer and a critic; he or she is free to comment on his or her observations and also provide an overview of what has occurred periodically. Blue hat thinkers must organize chaotic discussions, eventually dictate a conclusion, and prepare a report in an objective manner.

Control and Monitoring

In a meeting, a chairperson typically acts as a blue hat thinker to maintain order and adhere to an agenda; however, the blue hat can be exercised by anyone. It simply ensures a disciplinary procedure. It is important for thinkers to make a consious effort to use the requested hats, even though the hats often overlap in a real life discussion.

It is necessary to re-identify the hats periodically to ensure structure. To combat argumentation stemming from opposing ideas, participants should suppose each idea is correct under certain circumstances and identify which ideas most closely match the actual circumstances.

Benefits of the Six Hats Method

In theory, a thinker might expect that the hats are simply employed to fully explore a subject and that a time must follow for thinkers to design a strategy or make a decision. However, the hats incorporate assessment and are not just used for information; therefore, decisions seem to make themselves.

The Six Hats method creates a map that outlines all factors and from there the route becomes obvious.

If it is impossible to make a decision, then the blue hat should articulate why this is not possible and define a new thinking focus. The final blue hat can incorporate special decision-making techniques, but these should only be introduced when it is difficult to reach a conclusion to avoid unnecessary confusion.

If the final decision is still difficult or impossible to make, a design for a way forward must be made for both choices. In the end, all decisions are really “red hat” because final decisions are emotional.

Conclusion

The Six Hats method is simple to understand and use, since complexity is the biggest enemy to thinking. There are two central purposes for it. First, the Six Hats method allows thinkers to focus on one thing at a time in order to simplify thinking.

Second, the concept allows a switch in thinking, which preserves the egos and personalities of participants since the idiom can be definite without being offensive. Therefore, the hats become sort of shorthand instruction. While we do need to treat the hats as formal modes of thinking, it is unnecessary to consciously use a particular hat at every moment in our thinking. Finally, the hats are most effective if everyone in the organization is aware of the rules of the game.

HookedtoBooks.com would like to thank the Titans of Investing for allowing us to publish this content.  Titans is a student organization founded by Britt Harris. Learn more about the organization and the man behind it by clicking either of these links.

Britt always taught us Titans that Wisdom is Cheap, and principal can find treasure troves of the good stuff in books.  We hope only will also express their thanks to the Titans if the book review brought wisdom into their lives.

This post has been slightly edited to promote search engine accessibility.

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