The Six Thinking Hats Explained

The Six Thinking Hats is a concept developed by Edward de Bono, in the book with the same name.  It is now  commonly known as a tool for group discussion and individual/critical thinking.  The Six Thinking Hats describes six different ways to approach any one predicament or situation.  Now that we know a little bit about what the six hats are, let’s talk a little bit about each hat and what each hat encompasses.

The Six Different Thinking Hats

White Hat

The white hat is data-centric.  The white hat focuses on processing information and finding a solution with data that is readily available.  The white hat looks at information readily available, and then dissects and mines to see what solutions are available.  White hats then look for information that may have been overlooked originally.  The white hat also analyzes past data and trends in order to determine what it may mean in the present/future.

Red Hat

The red hat is the emotional hat.  Wearing the red hat means you are looking at the problem using your emotion, gut reaction, and intuition.  Wearing the red hat, you should also be looking at how others (and yourself) would react emotionally to the same situation.  As a red hat, it is important to pay attention to your initial reaction as that is your gut feeling.  The stronger the gut reaction is, the more important it is to a red hat.

Black Hat

The black hat is the so-called glass half-empty pessimist.  The black hat is essentially the devil’s advocate.  Wearing the black hat, you are going to look at all the things that can go wrong in a project or decision.  Using the black hat, try to see why things won’t work.  This allows you to plan additional precautions and contingency plans if the initial plan doesn’t work out the way it is suppose to.

Yellow Hat

The yellow hat thinks positively.  The yellow hat presents an optimistic viewpoint; yellow hats think of what the results are if everything went according to plan.  Of course, like the pessimist black hat, the positive yellow hat must also have sound reasoning to back up their rationale.

Green Hat


The green hat is the creative hat.  The green hat is responsible for thinking of creative solutions to a problem.  When wearing the green hat, you are not bound by rules and boundaries; green hats are essentially freewheeling ideas, alternatives, and possibilities.  The green hat’s ultimate goal is to come up with creative solutions to problems the black hat brings up.

Blue Hat

The blue hat is  for managing the thinking process.  The blue hat defines the parameters of the discussion and establishes the end-goal.  If you are wearing the blue hat, it is your goal to not let the discussion (in the group or with yourself) stray from the topic of discussion and its end-goal.  Clearly define the discussion and regulate the conversation if need be.

Why The Six Thinking Hats are Important

The Six Thinking Hats is essentially a decision-making tool that you can add to your arsenal.  It is ultimately designed to facilitate decision making in a group but can be adopted into making an individual decision.  In any big decision, it is important to look at the decision and its repercussions from all aspects—and that is what the Six Hats is designed to do.

Photo credit: (creative commons)

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