Six Thinking Hats
Edward de Bono
Facilitating is all about organizing thinking
There are meetings, where you just argue and become more and more frustrated every minute. The conversation is not constructive, not about finding the solution – it is all about who is right and who is winning this “fight”. Weirdly, these kinds of fights happen in teams, where actually everyone is on the same side and everyone should be finding the solution together. If your meetings turn often into battle fields, you should read this essay and start learning about facilitating. The origin of the word facilitate is Latin for ‘Facilis’ which means easy (Summa & Tuominen, 2009, 8). That is all facilitating is about – making thinking and discussion easy. Edward de Bono wrote in 1985 book titled Six Thinking Hats. This book tells about only one facilitating method, but it will make you realize, why facilitating is so important and how facilitating can turn the battlefield into a place, where everyone is thinking together to find the best solution for everybody. Now I want to tell you the main things about the six thinking hats.
Sixs hats – how they work
With six thinking hats, you organize yours and your groups thinking. You have six different kind of hats and each hat represents different kind of thinking. You may not even realize, but your head and thoughts are usually going multiple directions at the same time. If someone asks you, “Hey, what do you think about this?”, you immediately try to think all the positive and the negative aspects of the thing. Because your thoughts are going into multiple directions, they usually don’t go that far on one direction. If the person would ask you “Hey, what do you think, what good may come out of this?” and after that “Hey, what do you think, what bad may come out of this?” you might give better answers. Your thinking just got organized a tiny bit. With a group, this kind of organizing makes a big difference. Just imagine the situation, where ten people together discusses only the positive sides of the subject. And after that – together – the negative sides. I promise, it will go way better than if 10 people uses the same time to discuss both sides at the same time. In that case, usually some people think only positive and some only negative and there you go: you have a debate going on. To avoid debating, six hats helps you to think – together – and go to same direction. With six thinking hats, you have six different directions where to go with you thinking. This is the most valuable thing in the Six thinking hats method.
- “Imagine a computer that gives the facts and figures for which is asked. The computer is neutral and objective. It does not offer interpretations or opinions. When wearing the white thinking hat, the thinker should imitate the computer.” (de Bono, 1999, 46).
When you talk with your white hat on, you discuss only about facts. Imagine group of robots discussing together – it is only about sharing different facts about the subject.
- “Yellow hat thinking is positive and constructive. The yellow colour symbolizes sunshine, brightness and optimism.” (de Bono, 1999, 114).
Now you talk as on opportunist. The world is filled with great opportunities and you only see those. With yellow hat on, you are positively constructive and when you hear idea, you build on to it and say ”Yes! And….!”
- “Black hat thinking is concerned with caution. At some stage we need to consider risks, dangers, obstacles, potential problems and the downside of the suggestion.” (de Bono, 1999, 88).
And now is time for the ”Yes, but…” -answers. Now your mind goes like an insurance workers mind and you see the worst case scenarios and ”what if’s”.
- “Wearing the red hat allows the thinker to say: “This is how I feel about the matter.” The red hat legitimizes emotions and feelings as an important part of thinking.” (de Bono, 1999, 71).
For us in Finland, this is an important hat. At the workplace you also feel things and your feelings affects to your work and your team. That is why you should also talk about your feelings at the work place. ”What are you feeling about this change?” is an important question with what you can for example get the answers you need to make the resistance to change more manageable.
- “The green hat is the creativity hat.” “Under the green hat we put forward new ideas. Under the green hat we lay out options and alternatives.” “The value of green hat is that a specific time is set out for everyone to make a creative effort.” (de Bono, 1999, 115).
Let your creativity flow together. Now is the time for good old ”outside the box -thinking”. Now is time for create something new, something different and to innovate. With green hat on it is easier to throw silly ideas, even though some one might not see himself as a creative person.
- “The blue hat is the control hat. The blue hat thinker organizes the thinking itself. Blue hat thinking is thinking about the thinking needed to explore the subject.” (de Bono, 1999, 172).
Think the thinking, you could say. Observe the thinking process and the discussion. Summarize and give overviews. And remind how to stay within the six hats method.
Do you want to go deeper?
With organizing your discussing and decision making to six different directions one at a time, you already get far. Also, when you learn the method, you can use them in every situation. Maybe you have heard in a meeting phrases like “think more positive”, “do not always be so negative” and “do not criticize my idea if you do not know any better ideas”. Now you can say these things in a way, that is not as insulting. You can politely ask, ”I’d like to hear your red hat thinking about the situation” or ”Yes yes, that is great black hat thinking, but what do you think if you put your green hat on?”. Like this, hats also give easier way to step outside of your normal – comfort zone – thinking.
List of sources:
De Bono, E. 1999. Six Thinking Hats. Great Britain: Penguin Books.
Summa, T. & Tuominen K. 2009. Fasilitaattorin työkirja. Menetelmiä sujuvaan ryhmätyöskentelyyn. Miktor.