Use Your Thinking Hats

using your thinking hats

Some women get rocks set into precious metals for anniversaries, birthdays or Christmas. I get books.

Over thirty years ago, my husband presented me with a jewel of a book for Christmas. I’ve used this gift to teach thinking skills to children and adults. The title? Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono.

De Bono, the creator of Lateral Thinking, uses the idea of six colored hats to represent the viewpoints needed for effective problem solving.

Pretending to wear colored hats permits us to role-play and remove our egos from the situation. Using the idea of the hats directs our attention to the critical aspects of a discussion. The hats create a convenient way to switch gears within a group, as the hats act as a tool to ask others to shift their thinking in specific ways.

Learning to use the six thinking hats helps us become more flexible and control moods. In the game of thinking, the hats give us a plan to map out the realities and possibilities of a situation.

White Hat Thinking is concerned with facts and figures and looks at the available data, past trends and holes in information.

Red Hat Thinking suggests emotions and takes in regard how we ”feel” about the situation in regards to intuition, gut reactions and emotions.

Putting on the Black Hat takes the logical point of view asking us to be conservative and cautious.   Black Hat thinking help us avoid unintended consequences.

The optimistic aspects and outcomes of the situation are considered in Yellow Hat Thinking, focusing on sunny and positive forecasts.

Green Hat Thinking finds fresh ideas and solutions using creativity and alternative methods, while reminding us that the grass always looks greener on the other side.

The Blue Hat governs the process of thinking. True blue and cool blue come to mind when we ask the right questions, define a problem and set the thinking tasks. In a group someone must wear the Blue Hat all the time or put on the Blue Hat to redirect the process.

Let’s take a problem using the hats to think through a situation.

Twelve-year-old Tom has asked for a family meeting because he is missing $15.00 from his room.

Dad asks for everyone to put on Blue Hats to define the problem, which follows: Tom wants to figure out where the $15.00 went and how to keep his valuables safe.

Dad volunteers to wear the Blue Hat for this meeting. To gather pertinent facts, Dad asks for White Hat thinking. They discover that Tom’s ten-year-old brother, Bobby, let a friend go into Tom’s room during a sleepover. At that time, Bobby hadn’t seen any money. Tom went to the mall on Friday. Did he take the money with him?

Red Hat Thinking is Dad’s next request. Tom says he is mad that someone came into his room and that Bobby didn’t watch his guest more closely. Mom said she felt that the money might be in the room somewhere, perhaps behind the dresser.

With her Black Hat on, Mom said perhaps we shouldn’t have friends over. Dad said the worst is that we might not trust each other. Bobby said we might falsely accuse a friend of stealing.

Using Yellow Hat Thinking, the family thought they might find the money. The idea of being more careful with money was considered. They discussed off-limit rules for friends and locking bedroom doors.

With the Green Hat the family explored the possibilities of getting a safe, keeping all money in the bank and using ATM cards.

After the Six Hat session, Tom realized he needed to lock up his valuables and not leave cash in full view. Bobby realized he shouldn’t allow his friends into Tom’s room. Mom offered to take Tom and Bobby to the bank to set up accounts. Bobby offered to ask his friend if he had seen any money in Tom’s room. Dad offered to help Tom look in his room for the money. By the way, the money was behind the dresser.

Using Six Thinking Hats allowed Tom’s family to look at a situation in a calm, organized way while exploring different viewpoints, along with planning for the short and long term.

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