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Six Thinking Hats

A revolutionary approach to get the most out of working in a group

By Edward de Bono
  • Read in 16 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 10 key ideas
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Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

Six Thinking Hats offers you valuable tools for group discussions and individual decision making. The book shows ways to compartmentalize different ways of thinking to help you and your group use your brains in a more detailed, cohesive and effective way.

Key idea 1 of 10

The six hats are tools that help us to conceive new ideas and improve thinking.

What’s the main obstacle in the way of thinking clearly? The answer: confusion.

When we process information, we confront a number of varying thoughts simultaneously: ones that are emotional, informational, logical, creative and future-oriented. Trying to process them all at once is like trying to juggle too many balls.

The solution? The Six Hats method.

In this method, each “hat” has its own, easy-to-remember color – white, red, black, yellow, green, or blue – that represents a certain type of thinking.

Here’s how it can come in handy.

Let’s say you’re a manager and you want to know your team’s emotional reaction to something. But you know they won’t show their true emotions directly: people are afraid to be judged because of their emotions and would rather avoid the subject.

However, since everyone on the team knows that the red hat represents emotional thoughts, you could instead say “Let’s try the red hat on” and the neutrality of the color allows the team to think emotionally without feeling embarrassed.

That’s why, in practice, the hats are only referred to by color, never by function.

Furthermore, the Six Hats method ensures that the entire group is thinking the same way.

Imagine you’re at a gathering at a large house: one person is standing in the front yard, another in the back yard, another on the roof, another in the dining room, and one on either side. Each person has a different view of the house: from the side it appears very long, while from the front it seems quite short.

Now, think about each perspective as a different hat. If you want to view a topic from the same vantage point, you’ll all need to be wearing the same hat.

The six hats, therefore, enable your team in order to engage in parallel thinking, in which everyone views the problem from the same perspective.

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