Six Thinking Hats

The ‘Six Thinking Hats’ is a technique for creative thinking that can be used to manage any creative thinking process.

If it is to progress efficiently and effectively, a creative process needs a system by which it is controlled.

In Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, the essential activities of the creative process are described in a series of six steps, represented by six coloured ‘thinking hats’.

Each of the six coloured hats denotes one of six steps to the creative process, where each step is taken according to the developing needs of the creative process.

How does ‘Six Thinking Hats’ work?

There is no defined order to the use of the Six Thinking Hats: a hat is employed according to the needs of the creative thinking process at that time.

However, any creative project always starts with the blue hat. The blue thinking hat is the one used to decide which thinking hat would be best adopted at a particular stage in the creative operation.  The management of the whole process – deciding which thinking hat to use next – is denoted by the blue hat.

The development of any creative work requires an information gathering stage (i.e. the specific ideas that define the work – and general ideas that develop the work). This gathering of information stage is represented by the white hat.

An important component of the information gathering stage is establishing objectives for the creative project. What would indicate, represent, or define a successful outcome for the creative work being undertaken?

The stage in which creative thinking techniques are harnessed, thereby generating ideas and approaches to the creative project, is indicated by the green hat.

The creative thinking techniques deployed in the ‘green hat’ stage will result in generating creative ideas and approaches. Some of these ideas will be instantly appealing, others will have potential but need more work, some will be non-starters. This is why working on an understanding of the objectives of the creative work in the white hat stage is important. Without some sort of map defining the creative objectives at the start of the process you will tend to wander.

This response to the creative ideas generated during the green hat stage – given your initial objectives (e.g. target market, audience response, subject being analysed etc) – is defined by the red, yellow and black hats.

With the fashioning of creative work, the way you feel about the ideas generated is of foremost importance.  The Red Hat represents the stage of ‘feeling’.  Which ideas feel right, which ideas feel wrong.

The yellow and black hats assist this ‘feeling process’. With the yellow hat the positives, advantages and godsends of the creative ideas generated, given the objectives you have in mind, are reflected upon.

With the black hat the negative, problems, and just ‘wrongness’ of the creative ideas generated, given the objectives you have in mind, are reflected upon.

One word of warning at this stage. The craziest ideas sometimes – or even often – have hidden potential that can lead to the most creative and artistic solutions.

The combination of the red, yellow and black hats help to identify the creative ideas and approaches that will best take your work forward.

Six Thinking Hats – a summary of the six.

The Blue Thinking Hat is the hat for managing the creative process – i.e thinking through the thinking process (the ‘creative hat’) that will be required next.

The White Thinking Hat is the information hat.  This is the hat for searching information to support the creative process. High quality creative thinking is always supported by an information rich approach to the specific ideas you start with – and the general ideas you are going to combine with your specific ideas – in order to find the new creative direction (i.e. idea/theme/point-of-departure).

The Green Thinking Hat is the creative hat.  The green hat is the Glanside hat with which you select the Creative Technique you choose to apply in order to generate a creative glance sideways.  The Green Thinking Hat describes which creative technique you wish to use – and exactly how you are going to apply that creative technique to your specific ideas (i.e. the starting point for your creative work).

The Red Hat is the feeling hat.  The creative thinking process will have established creative ideas and creative direction in which you could take your work.  In choosing the creative direction to follow, it is vital to assess your emotional reaction (i.e. your feelings) towards the ideas you have identified and started to develop.  Your feelingstowards a creative idea and/or how that idea is developing – are important in the creative process. Creativity should always respond to an artistic objective.  Your feelings are key indicators as to whether your artistic objective is being met.

The Yellow and Black Thinking Hats can be described as logical thinking hats. There is a ‘serendipity’ side to creativity. When things just seem to ‘fall-in-to-place’ you know that the creative direction is sound. These are the positive characteristics of any idea. The Yellow Hat is worn when reflecting on these positive characteristics of the creative ideas/themes/points-of-departure that you have identified.

The Black Thinking Hat exists so that you don’t get carried away with the new creative ideas. The Black Hat is worn when considering the negative characteristics of the creative ideas/themes/points-of-departure that you have identified.  Are the ideas you have generated really assisting the achievement of your creative objectives?  Is the quality of this work as good as you want it to be?