The six thinking hats (AKA the De Bono hats) system is an innovative “thinking system” devised by Edward De Bono for use in individual thinking and group discussions for added efficiency. This system recognizes six different “ways” of thinking and unlike in conventional thinking in which all of them are used together without discrimination, they are used in sequence- in a stepped approach to reach the resolution of a matter.
The six mentalities this system identifies and segregates are Factual thinking, Emotional thinking, Critical thinking, Positive thinking, Creative thinking, and Processing. If we consider a typical thinking process, we will realize that these are used in it, but not in a managed way: In dealing with one problem we might jump between one and another mentality while we aren’t completely done with thinking in the previous mentality. We might even skip entire mentalities altogether. The six hats system manage these in a very practical way- it associates each mentality with a “colored hat” a separate color for each mentality- White, Red, Black, Yellow, Green, and Blue respectively. This system allows thinkers to think in one way at a time with the metaphorical hats making it easier to constrain thoughts to a given mentality.
Let us discuss these mentalities in further detail. The white hat represents thinking about information- thinking only about the available facts. The red hat depicts emotional thinking. At this stage, the individual or group can focus on their “gut instincts”. What the black hat depicts is critical thinking, judgment- negative thinking or thinking about all the things that can go wrong. Then there’s the yellow hat. This represents positive thinking- thinking about all the benefits and the gains.
The green hat depicts creative thinking. Thinking about new ideas and thinking up solutions for the black hat ideas. The blue hat manages the entire process. It decides the order the other hats are used in to fit the matter in consideration and ensures that they are used as they are supposed to be used.
These “hats” may be used in any order, but any order should begin and end with a blue hat session. In the case of a group discussion, the leader always wears a blue hat- directing the process.
In a typical session, the white hat is used for the longest duration. The others are used for a few minutes except the red one which is used for only about half a minute to make sure that the responses are really instinctive.
Although this system is mainly used by organizations when they deal with problems, it can be very useful for even day to day life if a person properly practices using it. The six thinking hats concept has already been introduced to some schools with the above fact in mind. Although the all too common skepticism that follows anything new couldn’t stay out of this either, students were generally quick in embracing it.
When considering applying this system to schools, teachers can complement the metaphorical hats with real ones- this does provide a very real benefit in materializing the mentalities- giving students a kind of handle to grasp onto.