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De Bono's Six Hats 


Six Thinking Hats is a parallel thinking process that helps students and groups to focus more productively on problems and issues. The process focusses on six team roles, represented by different coloured symbolic thinking hats.  

By getting students to 'wear' and switch the hats (and the roles), they can consider issues, problems, decisions, and opportunities systematically. 

In short, the hats correspond with the following perspectives:

White Hat. This hat covers facts, figures, information needs and gaps, and other objective elements of the problem.  "My white hat thinking is that we need to drop the arguments and proposals, and look at the facts."

Red Hat. This hat covers intuition, feelings and emotions about the problem. The red hat gives the thinker permission to put forward a feeling or an intuition on the problem without having to justify it using logic. "Putting on my red hat, I just feel that this is a terrible proposal." 

Black Hat. This hat represents judgment, analysis and caution. It should not be seen as a negative perspective, but rather as a logical way to establish when proposals do not fit facts, where there are shortcomings in the available experience, or issues in the system or in policy. The black hat can come up with worst case scenarios. 'Putting on the black hat for a moment, I need to play Devil's Advocate here ...',

Yellow Hat. The yellow hat is the opposite of the black hat in some ways. The yellow perspective consider the positive aspects and advantages in the situation. It looks at why proposals will work and be beneficial, or find aspects of past actions which have been positive. 'From the yellow hat viewpoint, I can see some really great outcomes from this approach ...'

Green Hat. This is the hat of creativity, alternatives, interesting proposals, provocative ideas and changes. The purpose of the green hat perspective is to look at the problem in new ways. 'Let's think outside the square for a moment ... this is totally out of left field, but what if we ....'

Blue Hat. This hat represents the overview or process control. Its purpose is to sum up everything which has been learned or presented in the discussion, and establish ways forward. 'From a blue hat perspective, I think that we need more green hat thinking right now ...' 

In the image below, you can see a visual representation of the six hats and the focus of each hat. 

Six hats thinking [Source: https://madamsabi.wordpress.com/2014/08/04/the-six-thinking-hats/]

  

Download a template (269 KB)

[Source: https://www.biggerplate.com/mindmaps/UbvRoAId/six-thinking-hats]


Putting it into practice: Application in Health Sciences

The Six Hats strategy gives students the opportunity to experience different styles of thinking and helps them to view issues and problems from different perspectives. It can be used during a specific critical thinking session to solve problems, discuss arguments, in-depth analysis for planning processes, and creative thinking. 

It is particularly useful for problem-solving activities. Use the colours (or even actual hats, if you can find the right colours!) to help the students to assume their role and hone in on the relevant thinking focus.


Interesting resources

Six thinking hats

Innovation in Higher Education With the Edward de Bono Thinking Systems