Six Thinking Hats – A colourful approach to developing ideas

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Six Thinking Hats

Edward DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats offers a framework for exploring new ideas, developing existing ideas or finding solutions to a problem.


The framework is based on the premise:


  • that we think in a variety of ways and
  • that by thinking in different ways about a topic we can explore multiple aspects of it and
  • that by exploring multiple aspects of a topic we can potentially become better informed

… and with greater perspective, we should be able to make better, more informed decisions and draw more informed conclusions.


A 6 Hats Thinking session is normally run as a facilitated group exercise in a relaxed environment with a goal of developing an idea or making a decision.


Thinking is isolated into six modes and each mode is attributed a colour—or coloured hat as a metaphor—as follows:


Blue Hat Thinking represents organisation and goal setting.
Green Hat Thinking represents curiosity and creative thinking.
Red Hat Thinking represents feelings, instincts and emotional thinking.
Yellow Hat Thinking represents optimistic and positive thinking, and is about identifying benefits.
White Hat Thinking refers to clear information and facts.
Black Hat Thinking represents discerning, logical or critical thinking.


During a session, a limited time is allocated to exploring and discussing a topic or idea under each of the modes of thinking. Actual hats, or other appropriately coloured props are often used as visual cues.


Thinking modes may be used in a variety of sequences depending on the goals of the session. Blue is often used first in order to organise the session, establish the goals, set out the ground rules and determine the sequence.


All participants must ‘wear’ the same coloured hat at the same time i.e. during the time allocated to ‘red-hat thinking’ participants may only discuss the topic in relation to how they feel about it and how it affects them emotionally. During ‘yellow hat thinking’, participants may only talk about how an idea or project can be moved forward and progressed, and may not talk about any negatives or pitfalls until the black hat is produced.


The facts-based, critical or negative thinking hats are reserved for the end of the session (i) so that there is the greatest opportunity to express and explore ideas positively beforehand and (ii) in order to focus on converging, reining in ideas and narrow them down so the goals of the meeting can be achieved.

Benefits of Six Hats Thinking

  • Everyone is encouraged to participate.
  • It provides a goal-based, progressive structure for brainstorming.
  • It challenges participants to ideate from a variety of perspectives and to identify ‘all angles’ of an issue.
  • The structure and ground-rules help reduce some of the psychological constraints and hang-ups people have about ideating in a group—especially in relation to emotional thinking.
  • It encourages people to think constructively rather than critically when constructive thinking is required and to defer judgement until the appropriate stage.
  • The goal with this process is to be constantly productive, to be constantly adding information.
  • It can be lots of fun especially if props are introduced and a relaxed atmosphere prevails. A relaxed atmosphere in turn promotes creative thinking.


As with many group related events, a session will work best with a good facilitator who makes all participants feel comfortable.