Six Thinking Hats

A summary by Sylvie Labelle

Early in the 1980s Dr. de Bono invented the Six Thinking Hats method. The method is a framework for thinking and can incorporate lateral thinking. Valuable judgmental thinking has its place in the system but is not allowed to dominate as in normal thinking. Dr. de Bono organized a network of authorized trainers to introduce the Six Thinking Hats. Advanced Practical Thinking (APTT), of Des Moines, Iowa USA, licenses the training in all parts of the world except Canada (and now, Europe). APTT organizes the trainers and supplies the only training materials written and authorized by Dr. de Bono. Organizations such as Prudential Insurance, IBM, Federal Express, British Airways, Polaroid, Pepsico, DuPont, and Nippon Telephone and Telegraph, possibly the world's largest company, use Six Thinking Hats.

The six hats represent six modes of thinking and are directions to think rather than labels for thinking. That is, the hats are used proactively rather than reactively. The method promotes fuller input from more people. In de Bono's words it "separates ego from performance". Everyone is able to contribute to the exploration without denting egos as they are just using the yellow hat or whatever hat. The six hats system encourages performance rather than ego defense. People can contribute under any hat even though they initially support the opposite view.

The key point is that a hat is a direction to think rather than a label for thinking. The key theoretical reasons to use the Six Thinking Hats are to:

encourage Parallel Thinking encourage full-spectrum thinking separate ego from performance

The published book Six Thinking Hats (de Bono, 1985) is readily available and explains the system, although there have been some additions and changes to the execution of the method.

The following is an excerpt from John Culvenor and Dennis Else Engineering Creative Design, 1995)

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