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Six Thinking Hats


Creative tools > Six Thinking Hats

When to use it | How to use it | Example | How it works | See also


When to use it

Use it in teams where you want to use different types of thinking.

Use it where individuals would feel inhibited by taking these roles without prior legitimisation.

Use it to encourage further use of a range of thinking processes.

You can use it to explore ideas when selecting which to take forward.

You can use it to explore how other people will react when you try to implement your idea.



    X      Long



  X        Psychological



        X  Group


How to use it

Explain the hats

Explain to the team the meaning of the hats below. If people are not used to them, a sheet of paper each with the colors and explanations clearly displayed on them.

It can be a good idea to have a little bit of practice first, to help people get used to the idea and how to use them.


Hat Headline Usage
White Information Asking for information from others.
Black Judgement Playing devil's advocate. Explaining why something won't work.
Green Creativity Offering possibilities, ideas.
Red Intuition Explaining hunches, feelings, gut senses.
Yellow Optimism Being positive, enthusiastic, supportive.
Blue Thinking Using rationalism, logic, intellect.


When you have been regularly using this method in a team for a while, you will not need to explain or even discuss them. People will naturally start sentences, with such as 'Well, in a Black Hat way, I would say that...'.

Use the hats

In conversation, people now precede a comment that is using one of the six thinking styles by mentioning the hat, or even the color. For example, you could say, 'With the White Hat on, I'd like to ask if anyone else knows about this.' (and in doing so, be forgiven for not being totally expert in all things).

If you are the leader or facilitator, add to the legitimization by using the hats yourself. Model behavior for others by regularly using all hats. Don't over-do it by using them in every sentence, but do model early and at regular intervals, especially if people are missing viewpoints or are not using the hats well enough.

Some people even use a set of fold-up flags (which you can make or buy). When you are using a given style, you fold up the flag that denotes the style, thus giving other people a continuing signal as to the thinking you are using.


'With my Green hat on, I'd say we should all flap our wings and zoom around the building with our eyes shut.'

'Feeling a bit Red here: I'm getting twitchy about doing this now.'

'With a Black hat, I'd say that we could not afford to do that.'

'Blue calling: The whole contraption is too heavy. It will sink without trace.'

'White hat says I can't decide yet, I need to find out more. Any ideas?'

How it works

Many people have preferred thinking and communication styles and feel uncomfortable working outside this style. They also may feel that by using a different a different style that they will be judged as inconsistent by other people and socially punished. As a result, they will avoid using those styles that they do not feel others will accept.

Hats are useful metaphor: they go on your head (where you think), and to some extent act as a disguise.

By publicly discussing and agreeing to use the hats, these different thinking styles are not only legitimized but also actively encouraged. Particularly when others start using them, the more timid people will also feel empowered to 'step outside the box'.

Just by discussing the hats, even people who are less inhibited can also get the idea of deliberately thinking in a broader fashion. They can try on the hats to take different views on the situation.

Hint: there is much more about this subject in de Bono's book, as below.

See also

Creating a Creative Climate





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