By: Laura Cowperthwaite On: February 28, 2017 In: Wealth Building Comments: 0

6 thinking Hats

A summary of a new way to make decisions

In traditional western thinking, if two people disagree, there is an argument in which each tries to prove the other party wrong.  In parallel thinking, both views, no matter how contradictory, are put down in parallel.  If, later on, it is essential to choose between the differing positions, then an attempt to choose is made at that point.  If a choice cannot be made, then the design/decision has to cover both possibilities.

"At all times the emphasis is on designing a way forward."

The essence of parallel thinking is that at any moment everyone is looking in the SAME direction. - but the direction can be changed.  The whole point of parallel thinking is that the experience and intelligence of everyone should be used in each direction (a single and distinct point of view, one “hat" at a time). Confusion is the biggest enemy of good thinking.  By having everyone focused in the same direction at the same time confusion is kept to a minimum.  So everyone present wears the Black Hat at the appointed time.  Or everyone present wears the White Hate at another time. That is parallel thinking and it makes fullest use of everyone’s intelligence and experience.  In the 6 Thinking Hats method hats are used as the symbols for the directions of thinking.
Remember the hats are DIRECTIONS and not descriptions.  A description is concerned with what has happened. A DIRECTION is concerned with what is about to happen.  The idea is to think in the directions of the various hats.

White Hat

Neutral and objective. The White Hat is concerned with objective facts and figures - a deliberate focus on information. What information is available, information that is needed, questions to be asked, other ways of getting information, and so on.

Red Hat

Gives the emotional view - Red Hat thinking requests feelings, intuition and emotions on a particular issue.

Black Hat

Thinking points out the weaknesses in an idea - this thinking is cautious and seeks to point out possible difficulties.

Yellow Hat

Thinking is sunny and optimistic. With Yellow Hat thinking you explore hope and the positive aspects of an idea.

Green Hat

Thinking offers a look at the abundant, fertile growth possibilities and indicates exploring creativity and new ideas.

Blue Hat

Thinking invites an exploration from the aspects that are above all else. Blue Hat thinking is concerned with control, the organization of the thinking process and the use of the other hats.

Use the Blue Hat at the beginning and at the end of thinking sessions...
...like two bookends:

First Blue Hat

  • why are we here,

  • what we are thinking about,

  • the definition of the situation/problem,

  • alternative definitions,

  • what we want to achieve,

  • where we want to end up,

  • the background to the thinking, and

  • a plan for the sequence of hats to be used

Final Blue Hat

  • what we have achieved,

  • outcome,

  • conclusion,

  • design/decision,

  • solution, and

  • next steps

TIPS on using the various hats

It can be helpful in remembering which hat is for what by pairing the hats:
White and Red (neutral & objective vs emotional thinking)
Black and Yellow (weaknesses & difficulties vs hopeful & postivie)
Green and Blue (creative ideas vs organizing the approach to the thinking process)

In situations where it is believed there are already strong feelings on the subject a Red Hat may be helpful immediately after the first Blue Hat. This presents an opportunity to get those feelings out in the open right at the beginning.

In a assessment situation, it makes sense to put the Yellow Hat before the Black Hat. If, under the Yellow Hat, you cannot find much value to the idea, there is no point in proceeding further.

Sometimes you may want to put a Red hat after the final Blue Hat. This final Red Hat reflects back on the “thinking performance”:
What do we feel about our thinking?
Are we happy with the outcome?
Did we do a good job?

Just as in any other decision-making process, the final decision may be difficult or even impossible to make.  It may require balancing two conflicting values.  It may depend on speculation about the future -  and there is no way of removing the uncertainty about the future.  At this point, there is a need to design a way forward that may cover both choices.  If that is not possible and a decision still has to be made, then a red at decision is made.  In the end, all decisions are really Red Hat decisions.  We lay out the factors but the final decision is emotional.