In 1985, Edward De Bono, the father of “lateral thinking”, proposed an original and highly successful method of thinking in six different ways which stimulates people to explore different perspective of an issue at hand. Each mode has been equated with a hat that you put on and take off as needed.
There are six hats, colored with symbolic colors.
– The white hat is the information hat. It refers to analytical and impartial reasoning, which reports the facts as they are, analyzes the data, collects information, precedents, and analogies.The white hat is objective and implies no judgment of the value of the information.
-The red hat is the free expression of emotion. It involves one’s intuitions, gut feelings and emotions.The red hat invites the wearer to think how others could react emotionally. Taking into consideration intuition and emotions is crucial as feelings play an important role in thinking and decision-making.
-The black hat is the devil’s advocate who detects the negative aspects and the risks and looks at a decision’s potential negative outcomes. It allows you to be critical or skeptical in order to avoid mistakes and protect against excessive optimism. The wearer of this hat identifies the weak points in a project, tries to eliminate them or designs contingency plans.
-The yellow hat notes positive aspects, advantages, and opportunities. It helps wearers to think positively about potential outcomes and reach an optimistic assessment of generated ideas and solutions. This hat helps keeping a positive spirit when faced with a challenging situation.
-The green hat refers to creative outlets, new ideas, improvement proposals, and unusual visions. Although many people consider themselves as uncreative, creativity can be enhanced and strengthened with practice.
– The blue hat establishes priorities, methods, and functional sequences. This hat leads the game of six hats since it plans, organizes, and establishes the rules of the game. It controls the process of using the other hats and clarifies the goals. It can also be used to analyze the process of idea implementation.
The hats can be used alone or they can be used to structure team work, to make it less conflictual and more collaborative, as the participants do not each defend their own way of thinking, but from time to time they try to tackle the problem by thinking together in the same way.