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De Bono's 6 thinking hats

Dr Edward de Bono studied medicine at Christ Church, Oxford, where he gained an honours degree in psychology and physiology. He also holds a PhD from Cambridge and has held appointments at the universities of Oxford, London, Cambridge and Harvard. He is the originator of what is known as 'lateral thinking', which is a way of thinking about problems by changing the assumptions you are working under, or by questioning what you think are the problem's component parts.

De Bono described that when people approach problem solving they do so from quite different perspectives. He associated this with people wearing different hats and identified the different approaches by using hats of different colours. This led to the development of his, now famous, six thinking hats theory.

The theory suggests that people tend to have a preferred approach to problem solving, i.e. they tend to wear a particular hat. It concludes that, by imagining that you are wearing different hats, you will be encouraged to think about the problem from different perspectives. This results in a wider range of possible solutions.

Below is a quick overview of each of the thinking hats approach when facing problems and their typical answers:

 green hat Green Hat 

Thinking Style: Green hat thinkers tend to be creative, imaginative and look for alternatives, but may not think through the consequences.

Typical response:“Of course we could always buy a new system.”

blue hat Blue Hat

 Thinking Style:Blue hat thinkers tend to see things from a broader perspective.  They have the ability to stand back and look at the bigger picture.

Typical response:“When the new system is in place it will speed up the process throughout the whole business.”

yellow hat Yellow Hat

Thinking Style:Yellow hat thinkers tend to be positive, constructive and look for ways of making something work.

Typical response:“I’m sure we can make the old system work if we all put our minds to it.”

black hat Black Hat

Thinking Style:Black hat thinkers tend to play ‘devil’s advocate’ and point out what might go wrong.

Typical Response :“The new system is only half the solution, what about late deliveries from our supplier, it won’t resolve that problem?”

white hat White Hat

Thinking Styles:White hat thinkers tend to focus on facts, figures and logic.

Typical response:“How much is the new system going to cost and how many customers can it cope with?”

red hat Red Hat

Thinking Style:Red hat thinkers tend to use hunches, ‘gut feel’, intuition and previous experience.

Typical response:“I have a good feeling about it, I’m sure it will work because I’ve seen it work for other businesses.”

 The 6 thinking hats do not just apply to problem solving. We find ourselves ‘wearing’ different hats  in lots of everyday situations.

Which hat are you wearing now?


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