Tools for creativity: ‘The Six Thinking Hats’

two and a half minutes.

Hands down, one of the most important steps of the creative process would be the brainstorm session. In a world that is changing rapidly, this is a critical time for people to generate ideas and create new concepts, as they respond to change and move forward. We know that these sessions need to produce results. 

Unfortunately, as many businesses and marketing departments know, sessions with a lack of structure produce a large amount of ‘noise’. Maybe this is because a lack of structure usually results in a lack of substance. All of a sudden the brainstorm is all talk and no action.

So how can you make a brainstorming session more effective, ensuring your team produces the goods? Recently, I read an article that stopped me dead in my tracks. I decided to investigate the topic further, and realised it might have something to do with putting on a hat! As an avid cap-wearer, my curiosity got the better of me and I needed to find out more… 

Back in 1985, a man by the name of Edward de Bono created and wrote the ‘Six Thinking Hats’[1], which teaches a method of thought that provides a structural framework for brainstorm discussion. It is now a widely used ‘thinking tool’ to help develop lateral thinking, both individually and within a group.

The Six Thinking Hats works by inviting members to metaphorically ‘wear’ a specific coloured hat. Each hat represents an avenue of thought and provides the thinker with a direction, rather than a label while brainstorming.

Interestingly, by swapping hats, de Bono believes members can contribute to the brainstorm from a fresh and unique perspective. We learn that when wearing someone else’s hat, ‘ego is separated from performance’, which eliminates typical defense mechanisms. It is a great way to turn ideas into action and gives some structure and substance to brainstorming.

So what hat will you wear?

The white hat – covers facts, figures, information (known or needed) as well as discrepancies with an idea.

The red hat – speaking quickly; expressing intuition, feeling, and emotion. It goes with a gut instinct.

The black hat – identifies what might go wrong. This hat wearer is weary and pessimistic.

The yellow hat: positively explores why an idea will work and what the benefits could be.

The green hat – worn side-ways, and enables the wearer to think outside the box by offering something unique and provocative.

The blue hat – controls the process and flow of the discussion, ensuring all ‘thinking’ is discussed in a logical sequence. They then focus on a plan of attack/next steps to make an idea become a reality.

Since it was introduced, Dr de Bono’s method has been employed by some of the world’s biggest brands including IBM, Federal Express, British Airways, and Pepsico. Yes, there’s even an app for it!

So go on, put your cap on (insert appropriate colour here) and start planning your next move. Ideas your team are likely to come up with will surely put you on the path to producing some results a little faster!



Image credit: @camillestyles (Instagram)