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De Bono considered human cognition and thought to be of several types, approaches, or orientations. He theorized that of these approaches, most people used only one or two of the approaches and that people developed thinking habits which in turn limited people to those approaches. De Bono believed that if the various approaches could be identified and a system of their use developed which could be taught, that people could be more productive in meetings and in collaborating within groups and teams by deliberately using the approaches.
As a result of his investigations, De Bono was able to describe a process of deliberately adopting a particular approach to a problem as an implementation of Parallel Thinking™ as well as an aid to lateral thinking. Six different approaches are described, and each is symbolised by the act of putting on a coloured hat, either actually or imaginatively. This he suggests can be done either by individuals working alone or in groups.
De Bono's six hats are:
- White hat (Blank sheet): Information & reports (objective)
- Red hat (Fire): Intuition, opinion & emotion (subjective)
- Yellow hat (Sun): Praise, positive aspects, (objective)
- Black hat (Judge's robe): Criticism, negative aspects, modus tollens (objective)
- Green hat (Plant): Alternatives, new approaches & 'everything goes' (speculative)
- Blue hat (Sky): "Big Picture," "Conductor hat," "Meta hat," "thinking about thinking", overall process (overview)
The main purposes of using Six Thinking Hats are:
- focus and improve the thinking process
- encourage creative, parallel and lateral thinking
- improve communication
- speed up decision making
- avoid debate
De Bono believed that the key to a successful use of the Six Think Hats methodology was the deliberate focusing of the discussion on a particular approach as needed during the meeting or collaboration session. For instance, a meeting may be called to review a particular problem and to develop a solution for the problem. The Six Thinking Hats method could then be used in a sequence to first of all explore the problem, then develop a set of solutions, and to finally choose a solution through critical examination of the solution set.
So the meeting may start with everyone assuming the Blue hat to discuss how the meeting will be conducted and to develop the goals and objectives. The discussion may then move to Red hat thinking in order to collect opinions and reactions to the problem. This phase may also be used to develop constraints for the actual solution such as who will be affected by the problem and/or solutions. Next the discussion may move to the Green hat in order to generate ideas and possible solutions. Next the discussion may move between White hat thinking as part of developing information and Black hat thinking to develop criticisms of the solution set.
Because everyone is focused on a particular approach at any one time, the group tends to be more collaborative than if one person is reacting emotionally (Red hat) while another person is trying to be objective (White hat) and still another person is being critical of the points which emerge from the discussion (Black hat).
Other meanings of the hats
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