Six Thinking Hats

45 minutes
Six Thinking Hats

LEARNING OUTCOME

Students will develop their ability to adapt  different points of view before taking a decision.

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RESOURCES & PREPARATION NEEDED

Flipchart

Illustration with 6 thinking hats

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ACTIVITY DESCRIPTION

This “parallel thinking” and decision-checking technique in group situations, when everyone explores the situation from each perspective at the same time, has been developed by psychologist Edward de Bono and published in his 1985 book of the same name. 

Steps:

  • The group defines a common (real) topic that has recently raised controversion in the school/community. E.g. The school board has made a new rule regarding  dressing code at school.
  • Once the topic is presented, the trainer explains the basic idea of the Six thinking Hats: For this game they will  separate thinking into six clear functions and roles. Each thinking role is identified with a coloured symbolic “thinking hat.” By mentally wearing and switching “hats,” team members can easily focus or redirect thoughts, the conversation.

The Red Hat signifies feelings, hunches and intuition. When using this hat you can express emotions and feelings and share fears, likes, dislikes, loves, and dislikes.

The White Hat calls for information known or needed. “The facts, just the facts.”

The Blue Hat is used to manage the thinking process. It’s the control mechanism that ensures the Six Thinking Hats guidelines are observed.

The Yellow Hat symbolizes brightness and optimism. Under this hat you explore the positives and probe for value and benefit.

The Black Hat is judgment – the devil’s advocate or why something may not work. Spot the difficulties and dangers; where things might go wrong. Probably the most powerful and useful of the Hats but a problem if overused.

The Green Hat focuses on creativity; the possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas. It’s an opportunity to express new concepts and new perceptions.

  • The discussion is done in plenary and the issue is approached step by step from the perspective of a different colour: the class discusses for a certain time on the topic from “wearing” the same hat, i.e. adopting the point of view of one hat at a time:
    1.  It is better to start with the WHITE hat: background information presented and documented, DATA analyzed.
    2. Once the problem or topic is fully defined, the RED hat is used to express FEELINGS about the problem or situation, what are their personal experiences. The general tendency for some participants, at this stage, is to present the negative aspects of the problem or situation.
    3. Therefore we use the YELLOW hat next, to capture the POSITIVE ASPECTS of the problem or situation from all participants. 
    4. This step is then followed by the BLACK hat, when everyone considers the NEGATIVE ASPECTS of the problem or situation. 
    5. This is then followed by the GREEN hat where everyone is encouraged to use CREATIVE THINKING to overcome the negative issues, to solve the problem.  
    6. We can use the RED hat again to gauge the feelings of participants after considering the problem or issue. 
    7. Finally, it is always appropriate to use the BLUE hat as this allows participants to develop conclusions or to evaluate and summarise the solutions to move forward on the issue or problem.
  • While passing through each the above phases, the trainer keeps notes on a flip chart (a mind map can be a suitable way to present the discussion outcomes) and summarizes the findings.

The trainer has to keep members of the team focused on the hat they “wear” at that moment and not switching thinking styles, or from criticizing other peoples’ points.

Other suggestions: The Six Thinking Hat can also be used for evaluation of a learning session or a topic. Once learnt, the symbols work well with students and help them consider different aspects of a problem clearly, without mixing thoughts and ideas. It also gives everyone the opportunity to brainstorm and balance, to give flow of constructive ideas. Although it may look time-consuming, it can actually save a lot of time once the rules are well known to all students.

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Reflective questions

  • Which hat was the most difficult to be worn and why? 
  • Wearing different colour hats have you spot opportunities where others could see only problems?
  • Why is it more efficient to look at problems, decisions, and opportunities systematically rather than listing pros and cons randomly?
  • The developers of this method of “Parallel Thinking” consider that it  generates more, better ideas and solutions than confronting ideas. Do you agree?
  • Why do you think this method reduces conflict among team members or meeting participants?

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Article on Six Thinking Hats – Looking at a decision from all points of view

Video on What is Six Thinking Hats

Video on Six Thinking Hats