The Six Thinking Hats innovative brainstorming technique, developed by Edward de Bono, is an interactive collaborative team exercise that provides a structured framework for successfully conducting group creative-thinking and decision-making activities. This creative technique builds off the common notion of “putting on your thinking hat” with use of six different “Hats” that supports brainstorming, by exercise participants, including thinking filters that represent focus on: facts, emotions, negatives, positives, creativity, and summarization elements.

The key benefit of the technique is to have a group of brainstorming participants examine differing points of view, based on six different directions, for the specific  issue or opportunity in parallel.

The technique’s underpinning is that the human brain thinks in several distinct ways which can be deliberately challenged, and hence planned for use in a structured manner supporting one to develop tactics for thinking about real issues and potential solutions.

The six distinct directions, represented by the six Hats, in which the brain can be challenged during the brainstorming session. In each of these directions the brain will generally identify and bring into conscious thought certain facets of the thoughts  being considered (e.g. gut instinct, pessimistic judgement, neutral facts). None of these tracks is a completely natural way of thinking, but rather how some of us already represent the results of our thinking.

Six Hats: Descriptions

The six Hats description are outlined below:

Six Hats: Technique Steps

The Six Hats technique improve brainstorming by empowering participants to think in parallel, with one another, and sharing the same framing Hat filters as an alternative to a discussion based on quick feedback and opposition.

The use of the Six Hat Technique is as follows:

  1. Select one participant as facilitator for  brainstorming session.
  2. Provide Brainstorming Worksheet with descriptions of Six Hats to each participant.
  3. Appoint one (or more) participants a Hat Role.
  4. Determines order to use the Six Hats by the selected participants.
  5. Identify  Problem or Opportunity to brainstorm within the brainstorming session.
  6. Agree time limit for each Hat. Times can vary from 5 minutes to 15 minutes or longer per Hat.
  7. Brainstorm by each Hat participant(s). Red Hat (Emotions) is typically less time because it’s about instinctive responses. The Green Hat (creativity) is typically longer because it about possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas.
  8. Form linkages between the information gathered for each Hat.
  9. Gather and record thoughts expressed from participants wearing the six individual Hats on Worksheet provided.
  10. Evaluate possible answers and solutions by consensus of the participants with the six hats as recognized filters.

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