Dr. Edward de Bono introduced a concept for thinking more effectively in groups in his book, Six Thinking Hats. The premise of this idea is that the brain thinks about things in a number of different ways.
The identified different categories of thought are assigned to a colour-coded “hat,” as described below. The hats provide a structured way to think about different aspects of a problem.
- White hat – Facts and Information: This hat includes Information collected or identified as missing.
- Red Hat – Feelings and Emotion: This hat includes feelings, including gut reactions to ideas or items identified in another area.
- Black Hat – Critical Judgment: This hat includes details about obstacles to solving the problem or other negative connotations about an item or idea. Since people are naturally critical, it is important to limit black hat thinking to its appropriate role.
- Yellow Hat – Positive Judgment: This hat is the opposite of the black hat. It includes details about the benefits of an idea or issue, or thoughts about favouring an idea. It is still critical thinking and judgment, as opposed to blind optimism.
- Green Hat – Alternatives and Learning: This hat concerns ideas about new possibilities and thinking about implications rather than judgments. Green hat thinking covers the full spectrum of creativity.
- Blue Hat – The Big Picture: This hat serves as the facilitator of the group thinking process. This hat can be used to set objectives both for the problem-solving process and the thinking session itself.
The six-thinking-hat methodology allows a deliberate focusing during problem solving sessions, with an agreed-upon sequence and time limit to each hat. It ensures that everyone in the group is focused on a particular approach at the same time, rather than having one person reacting emotionally (red hat) while others are being objective (white hat) and still another is wearing the black hat to form critical judgments of ideas.
The green hat is the main thinking hat for generating solutions in the problem-solving process. The other hats can be used as a reminder of the rules of productive brainstorming sessions, such as limiting critical judgment (positive and negative – yellow and black hats).