Six Thinking Hats: Better Decision Making

Recently my husband and I made a major decision and bought a new home. If you’ve ever bought a home, you know there are many different decisions to be made that require you to wear many different “hats.” I recently learned of the “Six Thinking Hats” model and want to share it with you. This model is extremely effective in the workplace and in life decisions.

Six Thinking Hats

What is your instinctive approach to decision making? If you’re naturally optimistic, then chances are you don’t always consider potential downsides. Similarly, if you’re very cautious or have a risk-averse outlook, you might not focus on opportunities that could open up.

Often, the best decisions come from changing the way that you think about problems, and examining them from different viewpoints.

Six Thinking Hats, created by Edward de Bono, can help you to look at problems from different perspectives. It’s also a powerful decision-checking technique in group situations, as everyone explores the situation from each perspective at the same time.

It forces you to move outside your habitual thinking style, and to look at things from a number of different perspectives. This allows you to get a more rounded view of your situation.

How to Use the Model

You can use Six Thinking Hats in meetings or on your own. In meetings, it has the benefit of preventing any confrontation that may happen when people with different thinking styles discuss a problem, because every perspective is valid.

Each “Thinking Hat” is a different style of thinking.

White Hat: using White Hat thinking, you focus on the available data. Look at the information that you have, analyze past trends, and see what you can learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge, and try to either fill them or take account of them.

Red Hat: using Red Hat thinking, you look at problems using your intuition, gut reaction and emotion. Also, think how others could react emotionally. Try to understand the responses of people who do not fully know your reasoning.

Black Hat: using Black Hat thinking, look at a decision’s potentially negative outcomes. Look at it cautiously and defensively. Try to see why it might not work. This is important because it highlights the weak points in a plan. It allows you to eliminate them, alter them, or prepare contingency plans to counter them. Black Hat thinking helps to make your plans “tougher” and more resilient. It can also help you to spot fatal flaws and risks before you embark on a course of action. It’s one of the real benefits of this model, as many successful people get so used to thinking positively that they often cannot see problems in advance. This leaves them under-prepared for difficulties.

Yellow Hat: using Yellow Hat thinking, you look for the positive. It is the optimistic viewpoint that helps you to see all the benefits of the decision and the value in it. Yellow Hat thinking helps you to keep going when everything looks gloomy and difficult.

Green Hat: using Green Hat thinking you use creativity. This is where you develop creative solutions to a problem. It is an out of the box way of thinking, in which there is little criticism of ideas. (You can explore a range of creativity tools to help you.)

Blue Hat: using Blue Hat thinking you think about process control. It’s the hat worn by people chairing meetings, for example. When facing difficulties because ideas are running dry, they may direct activity into Green Hat thinking. When contingency plans are needed, they will ask for Black Hat thinking.

Key Points

  • De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is a powerful technique for looking at decision making from different points of view.
  • It allows emotion and skepticism to be brought into what might normally be a purely rational process, and it opens up the opportunity for creativity within decision making.
  • Decisions can be sounder and more resilient than would otherwise be the case. It can also help you to avoid possible pitfalls before you have committed to a decision.


Click here for full article from MindTools.

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