The Six Thinking Hats Method
Notes from de Bono 1990b
De Bono's six thinking hats method is designed to switch thinking away from the normal argumentative style to a mapmaking style. The purpose of the hats is to unscramble thinking so that one is able to use one thinking mode at a time, alternating them in a constructive way. The six thinking hats do not cover every possible aspect of thinking, only the main modes.
The idiom of the hats is very artificial. This is its greatest value. The hats provide an innocent formality, a naive convenience for requesting a certain type of thinking, either of oneself or of others. In social contexts, where teamwork is important, they establish some rules for the game of thinking; all the team players are aware of these rules. The more the hats are used, the more they become part of the team thinking-culture. Focused thinking becomes much more effective, a brisk and disciplined approach instead of wasting time in argument and pointless talk around the topic of discussion. Without the formality of the hats, some participants may remain permanently stuck in one mode of thinking, usually the black hat mode.
At first you may feel a bit awkward using the different hats, but that soon passes as the possibilities of the system become apparent.
Devil's advocate, negative assessment, why it won't work. What is wrong, doesn't fit, incorrect, risky, dangerous, in error. Negative questions, not argument.
Seeing red and sharing euphoria, making "feelings" visible. Stating values, but not trying to justify them, nor attempting to make them logical. Also sharing complex judgements such as hunches, intuitions, senses of, and aesthetic tastes.
Lab coat, facts, figures, probabilities, tightening-up questions, checking and re-checking, striving for objectivity, specifications of limits to knowledge.
Sunshine, optimism, positive opportunity seeking, constructive logical assessment, concrete proposals. Sharing dreams, visions and hopes. Probing for value and benefit. Making things happen.
Fertile, creative, lateral thinking. Suspending critical judgement. Searching for alternatives. Going beyond the known, the obvious and the satisfactory. No justification needed. Provocative patterns of thought and movement of ideas are the goals; symbolized by the word po, the laxative of language, the opposite of no.
Cool thinking from the control tower. Monitoring and coordinating. Organizing the thinking. Setting the focus. Defining the problems. Shaping the tasks. Providing summaries, overviews and conclusions. Thinking about thinking. Enforcing the discipline. Calling forth the hats.