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Six Thinking Hats

“Six Thinking Hats” – Edward de Bono’s technique that enables us to structure and so make group and personal intellectual work more effective.

The basis of the "Six Hats" is the idea of parallel thinking. Traditional way of thinking is based on controversy, discussion and clash of opinions. Although in this case often wins not the best decision, but the one that was more successfully advanced during the discussion. Parallel thinking is the way of thinking in which different opinions and approaches don’t clash, and on the contrary co-exist because of dividing them in time (for example, during one period of time all the participants express the pros of a new idea, then cons, and then thoughts how to eliminate these drawbacks and what can be improved, and so on).

Usually when we are trying to find solution to some practical problem, we face some difficulties. First of all, we often don’t even try to look for solution, instead limiting ourselves with the emotional reaction that predetermines our future behavior. Secondly, we feel unconfident, not knowing what to do and what to begin with. Thirdly, we try to keep the information about this problem, be logical, make sure that our companions are logical, be creative and so on simultaneously. And usually it causes nothing but confusion.

Method of six hats is an easy and practical way to overcome such difficulties by dividing the thinking process into six different modes, each represented by the hat of some color.

In full-color printing, colored dies are rolled in turn, overlapping each other, and as the result we get a colorful picture. The method of six hats offers to do the same thing, but with our thinking. Instead of thinking about everything at the same time, we can learn to operate various aspects of our mind one by one. In the end all these aspects will be gathered together and we’ll get “full-color thinking”.

Mental map “Six Thinking Hats” (Paul Forman)

Here are short descriptions and main principles of using six hats.

White Hat: Information

The white hat is used to concentrate on information. In this mode we are only interested in facts. We ask questions about what we already know, and what other information we lack and how to get it.

Red Hat: Feelings and Intuition

In this mode participants can express their emotions and “gut feeling” on the question they discuss. In this case they get rid of the tension they have, can take a sober look at the problem and inform others about it. The red hat mode is usually given about 30 seconds.

Black Hat: Criticism

Black hat allows you to give vent to critical assessments, apprehensions and caution. It protects us from inconsiderate actions, pointing out probable risks and hidden danger. The benefits of such thinking are beyond doubt, unless, of course, they are abused.

Yellow Hat: A logical Positive

The yellow hat requires us to switch our thinking into a constructive channel, paying attention to the search for the merits, advantages and positive aspects of the idea or problem in question.

Green Hat: Creativity

Wearing a green hat, we come up with new ideas, modify existing ones, look for alternatives, explore possibilities, in general, give green light to creativity.

Blue hat: Control over the Process

The blue hat ("hat of hats") differs from other hats in that it is not intended to work with the content of the task, but to control our thinking, the very process of work. In particular, it is used at the beginning of the session to determine what is to be done, and in the end, to summarize what has been achieved and to identify new goals.

How does this work

In group work, the most common model is the definition of the sequence of hats at the beginning of the session (wearing the blue hat). During the session, all participants simultaneously "put on hats" of the same color, according to a certain sequence, and work in the appropriate mode. The moderator remains under the blue hat and watches the work process, not allowing participants to use the methods of thinking that are not peculiar to the current hat. The results of the session are summarized at the end under the blue hat.

The sequence of hats is of a great importance and is determined according to the problem being solved (for more details, see the training on "Six Hats"). For example, to create ideas, the sequence "blue - red - white - green - red - blue" is often used):

1. The blue hat in the beginning is the definition of the goals and the following sequence of hats.

2. Red in the beginning - our emotions (whether we like this project or not and what we feel at the moment).

3. White - collection and structuring of information about the task and its context.

4. Green - the generation of ideas.

5. Red at the end - choosing the best idea. If it is difficult to choose, you can add three hats before it "yellow - black - green". Yellow - this is the pros of the idea, black - cons, green - new ideas (for example, what to do with the cons).

6. Blue at the end - the definition of the next steps.


• Usually mental work is boring and abstract. Six hats make it a colorful and fascinating way to control your thinking.

• Colored hats are a memorable metaphor that is easy to learn and easy to use.

• The method of six hats can be used at any level of complexity, from kindergartens to boards of directors.

• By structuring the work and eliminating pointless discussions, thinking becomes more focused, constructive and productive.

• The metaphor of hats is a kind of role-playing language, on which it is easy to discuss and switch thinking, distracting from personal preferences and not offending anyone.

• The method avoids confusion, because only one type of thinking is used by the whole group at a certain time interval.

• The method recognizes the importance of all components of work on the project - emotions, facts, criticism, new ideas, and includes them in the work at the right time, avoiding destructive factors.

Some studies suggest that in different modes of brain functioning (criticism, emotions, creativity), its biochemical balance is different. If it’s true, then some kind of system like the six hats is simply necessary, since there cannot be one "biochemical recipe" for optimal thinking.


"Six hats" can be used for any mental work in a variety of areas and at various levels. On a personal level, this can be, for example, important letters, articles, plans, problem solving. In solitary work - planning, evaluating something, design, creating ideas. In group work - meetings, assessment and planning, conflict resolution, training.

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