In discussions, we often end up in opposition to each other and then tend to get stuck defending our own position. In such a situation, it is often difficult to move on. A good method to get out of such locked positions when evaluating problems or ideas, is to use a technique called Six Thinking Hats, developed by Edward de Bono. With the six think hats technique, you get around this problem by having all participants forced to take the same position in a structured manner in sequence. The idea is thus the same as in discussion clubs where you must be able to argue for opposite positions.
When using the technique, which is very effective to quickly highlight a problem or an idea’s all aspects, six differently coloured imaginary hats are taken on in turn, each representing a certain way of thinking:
- The white hat symbolises objective facts (logical and neutral), information and data. What we know and what we need to find out. Allows the group to ask and explore.
- The red hat symbolises intuition (without justification, and can be changed), the gut feeling emotions, instincts. Allows the group to put words on how the idea affects their feelings and emotions.
- The yellow hat symbolises positivism (with motivation), and focuses on benefits and gains. Allows the group to see the benefits even if they oppose the idea.
- The black hat symbolises doubt (with motivation), with focus on difficulties, weaknesses and risks. Allows the group to see the disadvantages, even if they are in favour of the idea.
- The green hat symbolises creativity, ideas, options, possibilities, lateral thinking, and the solutions to the black hat problems. Allows the group to let out their creative ability.
- The blue hat symbolizes process thinking, and structures the thinking, with summaries, conclusions and decisions.
The technique not only works to evaluate ideas but can be used for all kinds of discussions where you need to consider the different aspects of an issue. Depending on the topic of the discussion, you can stay for variously long time at the different hats and there is also an opportunity to go back, but everyone must wear the same hat. Normally, the shortest time is needed for the blue hat and the longest time for the yellow, black and green hats. The facilitator of the discussion should primarily ensure that the black hat is used only when it has its time.
Walt Disney has been using a similar technique. At first, he was the dreamer who imagined the most amazing ideas, without any restrictions. The next day he was the realist who tried to see how ideas could be realised. On the third day, he was the critic who tried to sink the idea in every possible way.