Effective problem solving is the most difficult problem in life

Becoming a Thinker

“If you act as a thinker, you will become one,” said Edward De Bono at the starting of his book “Six Thinking Hats”.

Putting on 6 Thinking Hats of six colours one after another and sitting physically in a pose of thinker (as if playing the character of a thinker in a drama) can make us a thinker, Bono believed.

Six Thinking Hats Concept

First of all, all these 6 hats are imaginary and have no physical existence except in the mind of the thinker wearing it. The purpose of using 6 thinking hats is to guide the thought process in a particular direction. It is wonderful.

six thinking hats of 6 colours
Image creation: Author (using a free photo from Pixabay)

People practice the 6 thinking hats process in group meetings, however, its effectiveness to improve personal decision-making is also excellent.

How to Use Six Thinking Hats Process

Hats are imaginary. Wearing a hat means to think only on those aspects of the issue, that is guided by the hat and keep aside all other aspects for the time being.

This way wearing hats one after another allows to analyse all pros & cons of the issue in a systematic sequence.

Individuals can use it for decision making in personal life. It gives an unbiased result and in turn, makes a person more mature and disciplined.

Some issue wise sequences for using the hats are given at the last.

Significance of Hats

White-Yellow-Black-Red-Green and Blue are the colour of 6 thinking hats. Each colour signifies a set thinking direction.

In a decision-making process, putting on a particular colour is an act that is decided in advance. Colour of hat determines the role the thinker should play.

In real life also, physical hats play a very influential role in human behaviour, Bono emphasized:

“A soldier without cap never pretends the same seriousness nor the same respect inspires that with the put cap”.

Similarly, when a policeman puts on his hat, he tunes his mind to the policing activity.

Types of Thoughts

In our life, there are two types of thought: ‘The Routinist’ and ‘The Deliberate (6 thinking hats)’. ‘Routinist’ thoughts run in automatic mode.

While driving, we look for signals and react automatically. The process of thought is ‘routinist’. We read the signal and take decision instantly without any prior plan.

On the contrary, ‘Deliberate’ thought is a preplanned process to investigate a subject for arriving at the best possible decision.

It is a thinking process that is well mapped, controlled and objectively driven.

Conventional Thinking, Parallel Thinking & Lateral Thinking

It is interesting to know our mind! So many ways of thinking that trigger our actions.

In conventional practice, the thinkers don’t explore all aspects of the issue. Typically, the outcome is imagined first and then the argument, analysis, judgement and exploration goes on to gather points to support the outcome. A haphazard process per se.

On the other hand, in parallel thinking, thinker follows a constructive and creative way and move forward step by step. Thinker looks to the problem from all aspects, but one aspect at a time.

Conventional Vs Parallel Thinking
Image creation: Author (using a free photos from Pexels & Pixabay)

The third way of thinking is Lateral thinking. Thinking differently, thinking out of the box. To explore the 4th dimension of the problem uniquely.

We have learnt many stories of lateral thinking at some point in time or other. One more is here for a ready reckoner.

A gentleman is replacing a punctured tyre of his car. Accidentally all four nuts rolled down into the gutter and there is no way to get them back. How to drive the car back home?

An out of the box thinker provide the solution. Thake out one nut from each of the other three wheels and fix the fourth wheel. Now the car is ready to run.

Detail of Six Thinking Hats

Each of these imaginary six thinking hats looks/maps the issue from a particular point of view for a defined time, in a sequential manner.

The White Hat

white hat
Image creation: Author (using a free photo from Pixabay)

Amongst six thinking hats, the viewpoint of a white hat is neutral and objective. The thinker wearing this mental hat pretend the role of a computer.

The thinker gathers facts, figures, data and information as input, compute them and give result without any emotional interpretation, opinion, hunches and judgements.

  • What information is available here?
  • What information is missing?
  • What more information is necessary?
  • How to get this information?
  • What is relevant?
  • What is the most important?
  • How valid is this?

A thinker with a white hat, focus directly on the information — what is available, what is needed, and how it might be obtained. Proposals, opinions, beliefs and arguments are put aside.

The Red Hat

Red hat
Image creation: Author (using a free photo from Pixabay)

Red out of six thinking hats signifies emotion, intuition and feelings. Thinker wearing this mental hat allow the thought process to get influenced by emotion, intuition and feelings without caring for the logic.

For example, “I don’t recommend his promotion because I don’t like him.” This decision is purely emotional and not supported by any logic.

A thinker with a red hat can freely express any opinion without having any justification.

  • gut-feeling that this will fail.
  • It is being done clumsily.
  • The offer received is the worst.
  • My intuition tells me that it will happen (anything) soon.

So, red hat brings the feelings and emotions out on the table without hesitation.

The Black Hat

Black Hat
Image creation: Author (using a free photo from Pixabay)

Black hat focuses on logical-negative perspectives.

Wearing this hat thinker plays pessimistic and try to find out the loopholes based on earlier experience or information.

Thinker indicates risk and danger associated with a decision. It highlights the negatives very critically.

The role of black hat is very valuable. It challenges every decision logically and thus prevents any possible mistake to happen.

However, overuse can kill creative ideas, therefore control is needed by a blue hat.

The Yellow Hat

Yellow Hat
Image creation: Author (using a free photo from Pixabay)

Like sunshine and optimism, the yellow hat focuses only on the positive and constructive side.

Just opposite to black hat, it tries to evaluate the logical-positive side of the issue. Why it should happen and what are the benefits? Thinker emphasis on that points only when wearing the yellow hat.

Thinker plays an optimistic role and logically find out how something can be done. Thinker focuses on,

· The benefits of a particular option?

  • Why a decision to be preferred?
  • What are the positive aspects of the decision?
  • What is the way to make this work?

Blue hat evaluates creative ideas for its benefit, immediate and long term.

The Green Hat

Green Hat
Image creation: Author (using a free photo from Pixabay)

Green is the next of six thinking hats. Creativity and lateral thinking is the perspective of this hat.

Thinker thinks out of the box, create new ideas and draws new ways of looking at the subject.

The colour green is the symbol of fertility, the growth and the value of the seed. Thinker nurtures the smallest clue creatively to get an out of the box solution.

Even when there is no new idea is available in hand, thinker pursues it innovatively. This role is difficult.

Thinker always ponder to find,

  • Are there any other ideas available?
  • Are there any alternatives?
  • Can it be done differently?
  • Can there be a new explanation of the fact?

The Blue Hat

Blue Hat
Image creation: Author (using a free photo from Pixabay)

The class monitor of six thinking hatsis the blue hat, it is the hat of control.

Thinker wearing the blue hat organise the thought and separate the necessary part for further thinking.

Thinker defines the goal towards which the thought process must proceed, defines the problem and elaborate the questions, decide the tasks.

Blue hat monitors the adherence to the game rule and thinking discipline. It can stop any thought at any point in time and insist on a different viewpoint.

Blue hat does synthesis, develop global vision and conclusion.

Case-Based Use Sequence of Six Thinking Hats 

(1)While evaluating the positive and negative aspects of an idea:

 Blue, Yellow, Black, Green, Red and again Blue.

(2)While creating new ideas, new products or improvement on existing:

Blue, Green, Red, Blue.

(3)While comparing fact and opinion:

Blue, White, Red, Blue.

(4)While doing Strategic Planning:

Blue, Yellow, Black, White, Blue, Green, Blue.


Originally published in Illumination @ medium.com.