Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats Theory

Personal development always requires us to find innovative ways of thinking, new concepts, and fresh approaches to commonplace things. How can we learn to think outside the box? One example is the Six Thinking Hats method invented by Edward de Bono.
Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats Theory

Very often, solving certain problems, especially atypical ones, implies thinking outside the box and approaching the issue with creativity. But is there a formula for creativity? Can we learn to think outside the box? We sure can. Moreover, this can be done in several ways. One of these was brought to us by Edward de Bono, a British psychologist and creative thinking expert, in his book Six Thinking Hats.

With the book published in 1985, the theory itself comes as quite fresh and young compared to other theories of creativity. Perhaps it is the high relevance of this approach that makes it worthwhile to start learning creativity with? If so, we are on the right track!

The Hats Theory's purpose and applications

First and foremost, the theory is presented to us as a creative problem-solving and conflict management method. Suitable both for personal and team use, it has gained enormous popularity due to its simplicity and versatility. Along with the adherents, however, it also attracted lots of criticism.

The basis of the Six Hats theory lies in the author's conviction that in the course of life, our way of thinking gets rather one-sided and stereotypical. And it is quite natural: as we live in a stable social environment, we adopt certain educational and upbringing patterns based on the exact same values for everyone around us. No wonder the ideas of logic, morality, and ethics throughout society stay roughly the same.

These conditions accustom us to thinking and acting uniformly, without making full use of our mental potential. Aside from stereotypes, our mindset is also influenced by mood, intuition, and immediate emotions. Therefore, the only way to revive our mental processes is to break our habitual state of thinking and switch to a creative decision-making approach.

The core idea seems very simple: let's look at the issue from different angles. What could be easier? It turns out, however, that trying the hats on is quite a challenge. With such an approach being unnatural to our system of thought, it requires comprehensive training.

The Six Hats Method basically represents a psychological role-playing game. Imagine you have six hats of six colors. You put one on and activate the corresponding mode of thinking. Only through trying on different hats can a person build up a three-dimensional picture of the topic in question. That is the core principle of unconventional thinking.

The method is effective in both resolving conflicts and communicating a message to the listener. While it facilitates decision-making, seeing the same situation from different angles is also a powerful attention exercise. Last but not least, the versatile method is suitable for use in any area that implies thinking activity.

How to use the Six Hat Method

The core aspect here lies not in the struggle of ideas, but in their unity. Thus, the problem-solving function of the Six Hats is about allowing the coexistence of views, rather than clashing them to choose the strongest one. At the same time, they are to be evaluated independently, ignoring the existence of alternatives.

White hat. Whenever we put this one on, we focus our attention on the data available. Is it sufficient? Is something missing? If so, then how, where, and by what resources can it be obtained? With the white hat on, we only think about maximizing the use of the information we already have.

As you can see, the white hat symbolizes the retrospective method of cognition, which typically is used to identify cause-effect relationships and patterns.

Red hat. Having the red hat on, we start listening to our feelings and intuition. Many people refer to it as the "inner voice". Try to hear what it's telling you. After all, intuitive insights are just as important to decision-making as real data. One way or another, the issue or problem at hand evokes certain emotions and reactions. This way, ignoring the issue's emotional background would make the examination incomplete.

When it comes to group discussion, try interpreting the members' opinions in terms of human feelings. Think about the motivations behind people's propositions. The important thing here is, of course, the openness and sincerity of the discussants.

Black hat. This hat is meant to turn you into a pessimist to resolve the issue in a critical manner. With every decision questioned, consider all the risks and dangers, as well as any possible pitfall or stalemate along the way. Try to find each idea's weaknesses and each question's trick.

While this hat might seem unusual and even uncomfortable to many positive-minded, successful leaders, those are exactly the kind of people failing to sufficiently anticipate the potential difficulties.

Yellow hat. A much nicer one, this hat is about optimism and positive thinking. It helps identify the strengths of the subject matter and the benefits of each decision. As long as the yellow hat is on, one can see the silver lining even in the darkest of options.

Green hat is to bring out your creative nature. Use it to consider all the options from an unusual, artist-like point of view. Try to find a creative application for each of them. Instead of making assessments, this time you only need to use your imagination.

Blue hat requires no decisions. This is the hat of a leader, of someone to set initial project goals to drive its further implementation. His purpose is to soberly assess the issue's relevance to the concept and goals of his business.

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