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Creative Problem Solving with

Six Thinking Hats

How to use Edward deBonos
parallel thinking in problem solving

Goals of this program

Define parallel thinking

Identify each of the six hats

Learn how to ask a good question

Apply six hats method to problem solving

What is parallel thinking?

At any moment
everyone is looking in the same direction.

So the six hats are?

Six colors of hats for six types of thinking

Each hat identifies a type of thinking

Hats are directions of thinking

Hats help a group use parallel thinking

You can put on and take off a hat

Uses for Six Hats

Problem solving

Risk Analysis

Strategic planning

Efficient Decision Making

Six colors

White: neutral, objective

Red: emotional, angry

Black: serious, somber

Yellow: sunny, positive

Green: growth, fertility

Blue: cool, sky above

and six hats

White: objective facts & figures

Red: emotions & feelings

Black: cautious & careful

Yellow: hope, positive & speculative

Green: creativity, ideas & lateral thinking

Blue: control & organization of thinking

General hat issues

Direction, not description

Set out to think in a certain direction

Lets have some black hat thinking

Not categories of people

Not: Hes a black hat thinker.

Everyone can and should use all the hats

A constructive form of showing off

Show off by being a better thinker

Not destructive right vs. wrong argument

Use in whole or in part

Benefits of Six Thinking Hats

Provides a common language

Experience & intelligence of each person (Diversity of thought)

Use more of our brains

Helps people work against type, preference

Removal of ego (reduce confrontation)

Save time

Focus (one thing at a time)

Create, evaluate & implement action plans

Using the hats

Use any hat, as often as needed

Sequence can be preset or evolving

Not necessary to use every hat

Time under each hat: generally, short

Requires discipline from each person

While using it, stay in the idiom

Adds an element of play, play along

Can be used by individuals and groups

The blue hat

Thinking about thinking

Instructions for thinking

The organization of thinking

Control of the other hats

Discipline and focus

The blue hat role

Control of thinking & the process

Begin & end session with blue hat

Facilitator, session leaders role


open, sequence, close

Focus: what should we be thinking about

Asking the right questions

Defining & clarifying the problem

Setting the thinking tasks

Open with the blue hat

Why we are here

what we are thinking about

definition of the situation or problem

alternative definitions

what we want to achieve

where we want to end up

the background to the thinking

a plan for the sequence of hats

and close with the blue hat

What we have achieved





Next steps

White Hat Thinking

Neutral, objective information

Facts & figures

Questions: what do we know, what dont we know, what do we

need to know

Excludes opinions, hunches, judgements

Removes feelings & impressions

Two tiers of facts

Believed Facts

Checked Facts

Red Hat Thinking

Emotions & feelings

Hunches, intuitions, impressions

Doesnt have to be logical or consistent

No justifications, reasons or basis

All decisions are emotional in the end

Yellow Hat Thinking

Positive & speculative

Positive thinking, optimism, opportunity


Best-case scenarios


Green Hat Thinking

New ideas, concepts, perceptions

Deliberate creation of new ideas

Alternatives and more alternatives

New approaches to problems

Creative & lateral thinking

Black Hat Thinking

Cautious and careful

Logical negative why it wont work

Critical judgement, pessimistic view

Separates logical negative from emotional

Focus on errors, evidence, conclusions

Logical & truthful, but not necessarily fair

Six hats summary

Blue: control & organization of thinking
White: objective facts & figures
Red: emotions & feelings
Yellow: hope, positive & speculative

Green: creativity, ideas & lateral thinking

Black: cautious & careful

Asking the right question

We cant get the right answer

if we ask the wrong question

Crucial blue hat skill

One technique: five whys

Creative Problem Solving

Traditional CPS







Common idea-finding


Mind Maps

Free association



Six hats & problem solving

A more deliberate process than CPS

Like CPS, uses creativity (green hat)

Unlike CPS, provides a mechanism for evaluating ideas & making


Hypothetical problem solving

program using the hats - 1

Blue hat

Red hat

Emotional issues & feelings

White hat

Organize the process

What do we know, need to know

Yellow hat

Proposals & suggestions; what ifs, why nots

Hypothetical problem solving

program using the hats - 2

Blue hat

Green hat

Generate new ideas & concepts

Blue hat

Focus on the areas that need new ideas

Organize ideas & process for evaluation

White, yellow & green hats

Constructive thinking

Hypothetical problem solving

program using the hats - 3

Yellow hat

Black hat

Screening for impossible, unusable

Challenge the alternatives

Yellow & green hats

Positive assessment of viable alternatives

Overcome objections, correct faults, remove weaknesses, solve


Black hat

Further scrutiny; point out risks, dangers

Hypothetical problem solving

program using the hats - 4

Blue hat

Overview of achievements so far

Organize choice of route

Red hat

Yellow & black hats

Express feelings about the choices

Looking for the best alternative

Blue hat

Strategy for implementation

National Sample Survey

Organisation Of India

When they were asked if they were aware of the

concept of six thinking hats, 67% responded
affirmatively. 24% heard about it and had only a slight
idea about the concept.

Despite the awareness about the concept, its application is

not rampant. Only 24% of the people use this methodology
while making decisions. Various reasons for it are timeconstraint, lack of awareness about it among co-workers
and deep analysis needed for using it. Hence, people tend
to use short-cuts and make decisions based on heuristics.

One major finding was that Six Thinking Hats framework hasnt
still gained recognition in most of the Indian organisations. Only 3
of the organisations under their study followed this framework
officially. When verified with data available on internet, their
finding proved to be true. While most US-based MNCs are using
this framework during all their board-meetings, Indian companies
still rely on judgments of a few top-management employees.
Hence, decision-making is yet to become a structured process in
these firms.

When the people using Six Hats methodology were

enquired about its effectiveness, 67% said that it is an
extremely useful tool. It helps them take more rational
decisions. It also avoids conflicts at work-place as the
decision-making process becomes more objective and
doesnt depend on the opinions of a few people. They said
it also reduces uncertainty-risk.

Case Studies:

3M used Six Thinking Hats to create products for new


Hewlett-Packard used Six Thinking Hats and Lateral

Thinking to help organize a strategic planning meeting.

J.Walter Thompson hits the mark with creative


Motorola used Six Thinking Hats and Lateral Thinking to

develop a high-tech, hand-held communications device.

Boeing used Six Thinking Hats to erase partisan lines

between union and management and to thoroughly
analyze a challenge and come to a solution.

Want to learn more?

Workshops by Paul Reali

CyberSkills, Inc.

336.774.1411 or

Lateral Thinking, deBonos Thinking Course, and other books by

Edward deBono