De Bono’s ideas of thinking hats go back over 25 years but is still seen as relevant as much today as back then.
The idea allows for different modes of thinking, allowing a problem to be seen from different perspectives. It encourages you to choose a deliberate focus during a discussion that suits the needs of the discussion.
The model can be used in meetings, workshops or brainstorming activities, and can also be used by individuals. Each different coloured hat refers to a different mode of thinking. You can ask all people in a group to ‘wear the same coloured hat’ or you can encourage different people to ‘wear different colours’.
De Bono distinguishes the colours as follows:
White Hat: Factual – With this hat, you focus on specific, available data. You analyse the information and see what can be learned from it. You identify the information you have and what further information you need
Red Hat: Emotional – With this hat, you consider the situation with intuition and emotion. How do you respond emotionally to the situation? How would others respond?
Black Hat: Critical – With the black hat, you see the downside of the situation, cautious and defensive. You highlight the weak points, the downsides, the pitfalls, reasons why it might not work
Yellow Hat: Positive – With this hat, you think positively, highlighting an optimistic point of view, looking at the advantages, being opportunistic, watching for the benefits
Green Hat: Creative – Here you create solutions to problems with a free way of thinking. You look for possibilities, growth, new ideas, new initiatives
Blue Hat: Process control – Here you take control of the thinking process of the group. Normally worn by the meeting chairperson, the blue had manages communication, focuses on the main points, creates conclusions, summarises and deals with action points
You can see that, when used creatively, it can be a very useful model to encourage different thinking styles whenever you’re stuck for ideas or find yourselves always going down one particular line of thinking.
If you feel the concept of coloured hats wouldn’t go down well with your team, simply use them in your own mind, and drive the discussions down the specific avenues of gaining facts, using intuition, creating new ideas, seeing the benefits and disadvantages of certain ideas and keeping control of the development of ideas. That way, you have all issues out in the open with the chances of missing key information greatly reduced.