How To Use The Six Thinking Hats Technique To Improve Creative Thinking

By Martin Gilliard

The Six Thinking Hats is a method developed by creativity guru Edward De Bono. It’s designed to assist the creative thinking process and has links to the idea of parallel thinking. 

It works particularly well in meetings where six people are in attendance; however it can be used just by one or a few people.

six thinking hats

(Photo Credit: daijihirata)


The basic premise is that each team member is either allocated or chooses a hat. The color of the hat signifies the role that they must adopt. The six thinking hats are:


The White Hat

The white hat is neutral and information based. This person will want to focus on the information that is available, will question what information is missing, what information they would like to have and how the group is going to get more information. This person should only be information based and therefore they have not to put forward proposals or arguments. Their role is only to look at the data and ensure that the right data is available.


The Red Hat

The red hat is fiery, warm and emotion based. This person will want to express their emotions, gut feel, hunches and intuition related to the idea under discussion. The idea is that emotions and gut feelings are usually suppressed during meetings yet it can be valuable to get them out into the open.


The Black Hat

The black hat is Stern, judge like. This person will want to apply critical judgement and express caution. They will want to ensure everything is legal and ethical and prevent silly mistakes from being made. They will highlight the reasons why an idea is unprofitable or impossible to do. De Bono see this hat as the most used / important of the hats as it helps the team avoid mistakes but warns of its overuse – too much caution and negativity can kill creative ideas.


The Yellow Hat

The yellow hat is shiny and optimistic. This person will be looking for benefits based on logic and how something can be done. They will see the positive, optimistic, logical side of an expressed idea. Some effort can be involved in adopting this hat as benefits are not always immediately obvious.


The Green Hat

The green hat is green like a plant for growth. This person adopts the creative role and should be the one who comes forward with novel and new ideas or additional alternatives. If no creative ideas are forthcoming then they can request ideas from others in the group and also puts forward possibilities and hypotheses.


The Blue Hat

The blue hat is blue like the sky for an overview. This person acts like a facilitator or chairperson; they set the agenda, coordinate and request info from other group members. They request for summaries, conclusions and decisions and they suggest next steps. This person organizes and controls the thinking process of the team.


Some people have a natural tendency or preference to a hat. It is good practice however to rotate the hats every so often. As I mentioned earlier don’t feel that you have to have a minimum of six people to use this technique, it’s perfectly Ok for just one person to use this technique and to consider each hat in turn.

Try the Six Thinking Hats technique in your next meeting or on your own applied against your next creative idea. Good luck! 



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