6 Thinking Hats - Keep that brainstorming under your hat!

Time to put on your thinking caps! In my last post I highlighted a paper airplane folding lean simulation. At one point during the video the team had a humourous problem solving adventure. In fact, they were using a parallel problem solving method called, Six Thinking Hats. This problem solving method was created by Edward de Bono and described in his book by the same name, Six Thinking Hats.

What is the Six Thinking Hats problem solving technique?

Wikipedia describes the Six Thinking Hats method as an exercise in parallel thinking. Since my computer has a dual core processor, I know exactly what this means. Both cores working at the same time, in parallel? Right? Sort of.

Parallel thinking is a way of approaching the problem from different points of view at the same time. Ok, this is not making things any clearer. . .

When you have a typical brainstorming session, you gather a cross-functional team together to ensure that every point of view is represented. You have a person from production, quality, finance, engineering etc.. A great cross-functional team to make sure that nothing is forgotten.

Even with a motivated team trying to succeed, you have an inherent problem. While someone is putting forward their view, others are formulating their own response based on their background and expertise. Each person has their own linear view of the problem and thinks independently.

Even if everyone came from the same process area, and shared the same point of view, the conversation can be disjointed. While one person is explaining the facts, another is thinking about the benefits and a third person is thinking about the negative aspects.

The Six Thinking Hats problem solving method tries to solve this by making the whole group think of the same part of the problem at the same time. . .using coloured hats as a physical, visual cue.

Each hat represents a distinct direction of challenging the problem.
  • White Hat - Information - during the white hat discussion, only the facts are presented. 
  • Red Hat - Emotions - everyone shares their gut feelings without any justification for them. 
  • Black Hat - Discernment - cautious thinking, what could go wrong.
  • Yellow Hat - Optimism - discuss the benefits.
  • Green Hat - Creativity - time to present the oddball ideas, with little criticism. 
  • Blue Hat - Direction - The chairperson wears the blue hat and can direct the discussion into a different mode. 
The Six Thinking Hat is a formalized approach to problem solving. By forcing everyone in the group to focus on one aspect at a time, the group is not moving in different directions or ignoring specific issues. By addressing all the different "hats," nothing is missed. It's a simple technique, even silly, perhaps, but when used in a structured fashion it can be a powerful decision making process, especially if used iteratively.  

Don't take my word for it, check out the video below that explains the process in more detail.

Is this too hard for you? Guess what. . . even kids do it! Check out the children in the video below: 

And finally here's a slideshare summary:

Interested in learning more about Six Thinking Hats? Read the source:

Who's used the Six Thinking Hat method? Please comment below. Was it effective?

I've added this post to my list of helpful lean tools. 


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