Edward de Bono’s Six Hats Method
It is commonly said that no plan ever goes according to plan. It never matters how many provisions we make for unforeseen factors, there is always something that will require a collective brainstorming session to solve. Edward de Bono rightly noted that such sessions could quickly become about egos and winning arguments instead of finding the right solutions. This is why he created the six hats method.
In his book Six Thinking Hats, published in 1985, Dr. Edward de Bono properly outlined the six hats method for problem-solving. It is essentially a system that allows team members to consider issues through six different frames of mind, represented by the six hat colours.
Discussions often start with the blue hat, where everyone agrees on the modalities the session will follow. After which, team members progress through the different hat colours one at a time. Usually, 2 minutes is allotted to each hat at a time, except the red hat which is allotted 30 seconds, to keep it purely intuition-based. And then, blue again, to evaluate the decisions reached and decide on an implementation method.
The Blue Hat
This hat is concerned with the organization of the process. At the beginning of the process, you don the blue hat to decide on the modalities of the deliberation session. And afterwards, you don the blue hat again to harmonize all the ideas thrown forward and then to determine the way forward.
Simply put, this frame of mind is used to organize the flow of the session, adoption, and implementation of ideas.
The White Hat
After you have decided on the flow of the session, then every team member presents the facts for deliberation. That is what the white hat stands for. For the period you have it on (literally or metaphorically), the only thing to do is for everyone to present whatever hard facts they have. Not emotion-based information or intuition, only hard, actionable facts. These are the material with which you will find solutions to the problem at hand.
The Red Hat
Emotions are not useless; we have an intuition or ‘gut feelings’ for a reason. Sometimes, we can just tell that something is wrong without hard facts to back our thoughts. The red hat gives room for that. It is not sacrosanct since, after all, all decisions have to be backed by data. But, pointing out these things help you to find errors that you might have missed before.
However, this stage mustn’t be contaminated with biases. And to that end, it is usually restricted to just 30 seconds to keep it purely intuition-based.
The Black Hat
Motivational speakers often encourage a positive outlook to life, however, in manufacturing or business, you have to remain aware of the realities. It is commonly said that when you look at situations through rose-tinted glasses, all red flags appear normal. That is why Dr. de Bono included this stage. Sometimes, people build fantasies around their ideas, neglecting to consider the possible pitfalls.
In the black hat phase, also known as the judgemental phase, team members are forced to examine the possible negative outcomes of the ideas raised. This phase allows you to eliminate weaknesses in your plan and to prepare contingency plans against possible failures.
The Yellow Hat
Optimism is not totally out of place when thinking up useful solutions. This is what the yellow hat is for. When you have this one on, you have to consider all possible positive outcomes of ideas. It encourages creative thinking.
One, since all ideas have possible negative outcomes, considering all positive outcomes helps you to pick the least bad option. Two, the yellow hat phase helps to restore optimism and a positive outlook to the discussion in the face of dire realities.
The Green Hat
This is the creativity and possibilities hat. When you wear this hat, you have to think about creative, new, different ways to solve the problem. It is a no judgement phase, where no ideas are out of place. Team members might be tempted to believe that they lack creativity, that is why this phase is important. It forces everyone to reach into their inner creative selves without fear of judgment.
How to apply the six hats method
To apply the six hats method, follow the four steps below:
- Schedule a meeting
- Begin with the blue hat
- Go through the different hats one at a time.
- End with the blue hat
1. Schedule a meeting
The first thing to do is schedule a meeting with all necessary team members. Scheduling is pretty important because it would be pretty difficult to hold a successful creative session when everyone is worn out for the day. So, it is advisable to hold the meeting in the morning before anyone does any heavy tasks. And if it has to hold later in the day, team members may be advised to put off heavy tasks to remain clear-headed.
2. Begin with the Blue Hat
When everyone is seated, start with the blue hat. It is the organizational hat. With it, outline the flow of the session. This is so that, everyone can stay on track. Sometimes, it is not necessary to go through all the hats, you might just need three or four hats. It is at this stage that you decide the sequence of hats you will be using.
3. Go through the different hats one at a time.
When you have outlined the modalities of the session, you can then begin to go through the different hats. In whatever number of hats or sequence you have decided upon, it is important to go through all the hats. This is so that, in the end, there are no issues left unattended.
4. End with the Blue Hat
At the end of deliberations, put the blue hat back on. This time around, it should be to decide on the modalities for the adoption of the decisions reached and the method of implementation.
The six hats method helps teams to evaluate situations deeply and profitably while avoiding ego conflicts and biases. Not only is it great for businesses, but individuals can also adopt it in their personal lives, forcing themselves to evaluate situations in six different ways instead of using just emotions.
Practice it regularly, follow these steps and do it the right way and you will notice the clear benefits of Edward de Bono’s six hats thinking method.