Edward Charles de Bono is a Maltese, physician, psychologist, philosopher, author, inventor and consultant. Edward Bono has written about 57 books with translations into 34 languages. He has taught his thinking methods to government agencies, corporate clients, organizations and individuals; privately or publicly in group sessions. He promoted the World Center for New Thinking (2004-2011) based in Malta, which applied Thinking Tools to solution and policy design on the geo-political level. His biggest goal has been to encourage people to develop “Critical Thinking” as he is convinced that critical thinking added to better language are the key needed to propel humanity forward. With his already classic works, this Maltese psychologist and professor at the University of Oxford has given us a more than appreciable legacy in the field of creativity, highlighting the potential of thought and enriching the world of psychology, management, among others.
The technique of the six thinking hats was developed by Edward de Bono and is a very effective communication and reasoning tool. Thanks to it, we see our personal realities from different perspectives while at the same time applying lateral thinking.
One aspect Bono suggests in his book is that thought should be deliberate and very careful. Thinking well to live better is a rule to follow; therefore there is nothing better than using “several hats” to achieve a varied, agile and creative style of thought.
What this technique seeks to do, is to represent six directions of thought contained in six imaginary hats. This way whenever a problem appears or we try to make a decision, each hat will offer us a premise, a vision, a specific framing. Once we have used all hats proactively, we will feel more qualified and capable to make a decision.
Let’s take a closer look at what each hat represents…
The White Hat.- This hat will teach us to see things from an objective point of view, neutral and empty of biases. The thinking style applied here will be based on analysis of data; contrasting the information provided without formulating any judgements. This approach will allow us not to get emotionally involved in a decision by detaching ourselves from it. This way we can see the issue more clearly and without emotional distortions. Learning to healthily detach oneself is something important and fundamental to make a good decision; that’s why this hat is so important as it helps us reach an objective point of view. To summarize, the white hat looks for concrete facts, it does not interpret, it remains neutral and distant.
The Black Hat.- The black hat represents the logical-negative and teaches us to understand why certain things can go wrong, not work or not happen in the way we expect them to.
The six hats technique also helps us to be critical and see the negative side of things; to be more realistic. Sometimes it is necessary to be aware of the negative, adverse or complex events in order to find more valid solutions. This kind of thinking is nourished by our past experiences, as such it reminds us of the mistakes made so that we don’t go around making them again. To summarize the black hat reminds us life is about balance not about pretending our shadow or negative side of things aren’t there; therefore keeping our thinking realistic.
The Red Hat.- The red hat is passionate, it is the emotional side and feels life from the heart space. While the white hat allowed us to make use of the most neutral, careful and objective logic, red will throw us into the void to embrace that world inhabited by the most pulsating as well as free subjectivities. By putting on this hat we will have the opportunity to say out loud what we are passionate about, what worries us or what our intuition says about the information we have. Likewise, it will allow us to understand the emotions of others and their needs.
The Green Hat.- The green hat demands originality, creativity, crossing borders, making the impossible, possible. Within this hat lateral thought is contained; that which invites us to be provocative and not so conservative. It encourage us to use our idealistic and innovative thinking instead of using restrictive judgment.
This type of thinking reminds us that it is not good to feel satisfied quickly, that we have to find more routes, more alternatives, generate more proposals. It pushes us not to become complacent. This hat helps us to get rid of external and internal judgments, instead it encourages us to let our imagination flow.
The Yellow Hat.- While the black hat offered us that logical-negative approach so useful to be more realistic in our day-to-day life, the yellow hat teaches us to apply a logical-positive approach to thinking. We can see possibilities where others see closed doors. Therefore with this hat while keeping us realistic it also gives us a more optimistic approach to reality and encourages us to see new challenges. Unlike the red hat, the yellow hat’s positivity is always realistic and logical. This hat allows us to dream while keeping our feet solidly on the ground.
The Blue Hat.- The blue color covers everything; is always present and dominates every aspect cover by the other hats. It transmits tranquility, balance and also self-control. Within the technique of the 6 thinking hats, this is the one that has control over the whole process, hence its dynamic is used twice… at the beginning and at the end.
At the beginning by guiding the process of what hats to wear, what order should we follow. In the end the blue hat is present helping us to make a decision.
The blue hat represents therefore structured thinking, which focuses and guides us during each step, pointing out alternatives, proposing new strategies and maintaining control in each sequence in order for us not to lose ourselves or get stuck.
The six hats technique developed by Edward de Bono is still a good strategy to improve the quality of our decision making. Thanks to this technique we can become capable to applying different styles of thinking which in turn helps us to properly assess problems or facts. The six hats technique may not be the “rule set on stone” but it certainly can be a great guide to develop structure thinking while developing new perspectives and finding new approaches to all sort of situations. The results we get from wearing all hats are most likely to be more accurate, more creative and original.
“Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic. We need creativity in order to break free from the temporary structures that have been set up by a particular sequence of experience”