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de Bono's Six Thinking Hats: Summary & Examples

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  • 0:04 De Bono's Method
  • 1:06 How It Works
  • 1:42 Representation of Each Hat
  • 3:10 Applying the Hats
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Allison Tanner
Communicating in team meetings can be extremely challenging. This lesson discusses how de Bono's six thinking hats can help guide your team's creative thinking with fewer conflicts.

De Bono's Method

Imagine that you work for a large-scale bakery and you are preparing for your monthly budget meeting with the management team. Your manager, Marty, walks in to the meeting carrying a bag of hats. As he pulls out the six hats, you notice that each one is a different color: red, white, blue, black, yellow, and green.

Marty explains that over the past few months their sessions haven't seemed to reduce the budget problem, and communication is becoming tense. In order to increase the quality of the meetings, Marty is introducing a new method.

He explains that de Bono's six thinking hats is a unique method for creative thinking since it provides your team with a way to enhance their communication and discuss different needs in your business, all while focusing on specific aspects of the conversation. Each hat is a specific color, and the meaning associated with that color helps to direct the conversation. This should help to alleviate conflict by keeping everyone on the same topic. These hats should be 'worn' at different times throughout the process. As communication improves, the team can begin to 'change' the hats throughout the conversation with less direction.

How It Works

Marty plops the blue hat on his head and tells them that it represents the oversight, or management of the thinking process.

The purpose of each hat is help you picture the various ways of thinking. When the team is wearing the white hat, representing fact-based thinking, you need to picture in your mind only the facts, while setting aside the emotional thoughts.

To help make things more clear he establishes some general guidelines for the meeting:

  • Each hat represents a single feature of the process
  • Stick to the hat that you're wearing; don't go off subject
  • Each member of the management team will wear the same hat, and
  • Marty will be the leader and wear the blue hat throughout the meeting

Representation of Each Hat

To get the ball rolling, Marty hands everyone a laminated copy of the hats and explains what each one means.

1. Structure

The blue hat is all about the process.

  • What is the goal of the meeting? or
  • When should we take breaks?

2. Information

The white hat is for the facts. You can remember this by thinking of white as 'uncolored' by other factors.

  • What is the fact-based issue? or
  • What is the fact-based method to solving the issue?

3. Emotion

The red hat is simply for feelings. Red is often associated with passionate emotion, if that helps you remember.

  • What are your opinions? or
  • How do you feel about everything?

4. Optimism

The yellow hat is for benefits, or what is the best possible outcome? Think of yellow as associated with happiness, or the sun, when we're often our most positive.

  • What might the outcome be if we do xyz? or
  • Why would this be good?

5. Creativity

The green hat is for creative ideas. You can think of green like growth.

  • What haven't we tried yet?
  • What can we try? or
  • What are the creative ideas everyone has?

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