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Creative Thinking is a way of looking at things differently and being able to generate ideas for problem solving.


Six Thinking Hats OR De Bono's Six Thinking Hats is a structured creative thinking tool that helps teams generate ideas by using different ways of thinking. These distinct ways of thinking are represented as six different colored hats - Black, Blue, Green, Red, White and Yellow.


Applause for all the respondents - Krutibas Biswal, Alpesh Gorasia, Ram Kumar Chaudhary, Sudhir Gayakwad


Also review the answer provided by Mr Venugopal R, Benchmark Six Sigma's in-house expert.


Q 280. Creative Thinking using Six DeBono Hats is one of the ways a team could generate robust solutions. Explain the advantages of using this method over traditional brainstorming. Explanation with an example will be preferred.


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Benchmark Six Sigma Expert View by Venugopal R

‘The Six Thinking Hats’
is a popular method of getting a team to think about a topic from multiple angles.

Any brainstorming exercise needs good planning, facilitation and post-session work to derive the benefits of the time spent by a group of experts. Brainstorming, if allowed to happen as a ‘free for all’ exercise, will never provide any useful outcome. Various methods have been recommended for channelizing brainstorming efforts.

The ‘Six Thinking Hats’ by Edward DE Bono is one widely accepted method to overcome some of the issues faced during a traditional brainstorming exercise.


Genesis of the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ method.

Each individual has got his / her characteristic and habitual way of thinking. Some will be optimistic by nature, whereas some will be cautious, and some others will be intuitive, creative and so on. With such different approaches of mind, based on individual behavioral characteristics, we would face clashes of interest, hurdles and passiveness during a brainstorming session.

As per DE Bono’s thoughts, each of these characteristics are important and we need to look at a problem from all these angles before concluding upon the solution. He brought in six perspectives to be considered mandatorily during a brainstorming and related each on to a colour of a hat. These six perspectives are expected to largely cover encompass the variety of perspectives that could emerge from a group of individuals.


What each coloured hat represents:

  1. White Hat – Facts: Focus on data, facts and information available or needed.
  2. Blue Hat – Process: Focus on managing the thinking process, next steps, action plans
  3. Red Hat – Feelings: Focus on feelings, hunches, gut feelings and intuitions
  4. Yellow Hat – Benefits: Focus on values and benefits; why something may work
  5. Black Hat – Cautions: Focus on difficulties, potential problems; why something may not work
  6. Green Hat – Creativity: Focus on possibilities, alternatives, solutions and new ideas


How does it differ from traditional Brainstorming?

In traditional brainstorming, the heterogeneity in the team-thinking at any point of time would cause conflicts on interests and will result in missing out valuable ideas from the multiple thought perspectives. There is bound to be dominance of few individuals and could result in bias towards their ideas. The participants whose perspectives could not be voiced or got overpowered, would feel their morale let down and will tend to have poor ownership on the final solution.


By ‘wearing’ a particular colour of hat, all the participants force themselves to approach the problem in the perspective represented by the hat colour, at any given point of time irrespective of their natural inclination. This enables the entire team to address the problem in the same perspective at a given point of time. Room for dominance-based bias is reduced. By going through all the ‘colours’, the likelihood of anyone’s perspective getting left out is significantly reduced. This will enable to build an overall higher level of ownership on the accepted solution.


Example case study:

Let’s consider a situation, where an organization wants to decide whether they should purchase an expensive RPA tool. They use the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ for discussing and decision making. Please note that the points mentioned here are just for illustration and would not be exhaustive enough for an actual case.


  1. With the White Hat on, the team will focus on available data and the data required. They look at the number of automation opportunities, existing and likely to emerge in next couple of years. They look at the data on multiple options for RPA tools available and the comparative costs and features. They also look the past industry trends future prospects based on automation.
  2. With the Red Hat, the team will gather the intuitive opinions by the team members on different products available and the pros and cons based on hunches and individual opinions. They will also gather inputs as to what the team ‘feels’ about the need for automation, going for a third-party tool or developing it in-house.
  3. Wearing the Green Hat, the team encourages ideas for innovative thinking – alternate approaches to overcome their productivity issues or smartly modifying available software with internal expertise, or simplify the process with creative design thinking that could vastly reduce the number of steps involved. Other thoughts could be to leverage options offered through cloud computing.
  4. The Yellow Hat may introduce at this stage and focus on the tangible and intangible benefits of acquiring a RPA tool. They will look at the investment and ROI time frame. Other benefits could include improved accuracies and winning more customer good-will by providing faster and higher quality services. Another factor could be the enhancement in competitiveness.
  5. Black Hat may be brought in now – Concerns are raised on the credibility of the projections for automation. What if the technology gets obsolete faster than getting the ROI? Will it result in loss of jobs for employees?
  6. The Blue Hat is worn by the person facilitating the thought process, encouraging the ideas to flow and directing the switching of the thought process from one perspective to the next.

Had they not followed the ‘Six thinking hats’ method, a few of the above points would have had a biased domination, quite likely around points 1, 2 and 4. Having explored the problem from all the perspectives the summary of the discussion will be comprehensive and would help the management team to take a very informed decision, with higher degree of ownership.

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white hat : like a detective who gathers, organizes, analyses, and presents current information


In the same fashion, while “wearing” a white thinking hat, you should collect known information and analyse it to reach fact-based solutions. Analysis of the gathered data will help you find gaps so you can look for ways to fill them or at least take note of them so you have a better idea of how to direct your conversations. 



·       What do we know about this problem?

·       What don’t we know about this problem?

·       What can we learn from this situation?

·       What information do we need to solve this issue?

·       Are there potential existing resolutions that we can use to solve this problem?



Yellow thinking hat :

This hat represents enthusiasm and optimism. Like a bright, sunny day, the yellow hat is used to bring positive energy and life to every idea.


With the this thinking hat, you may seek to find the benefits and value of ideas. You should not be hampered by limitations or boundaries, but rather believe that when there’s a will, there’s a way.


  • What is the best way to approach the issue?
  • What can be doe to make this happen?
  • What are the long-term benefits of this solution?


Black thinking hat

The black hat is the opposite of the yellow hat and represents judgment. Wearers of this hat look for ways that the situation can go wrong.


The black hat is used to expose flaws, weaknesses, and possible dangers of proposed ideas. The black hat dives below the surface to find any potential problems. The black hat is essential to keep you from jumping headfirst into a potentially disastrous situation.


Questions will help on the black hat perspective can include:

  • How will this idea likely fail?
  • What is this idea’s fatal flaw?
  • What are the potential risks and consequences?
  • Do we have the resources, skills, and ability to make this work?


Red thinking hat

While you have the red thinking hat, your primary goal is to intuitively suggest proposals and plans of action based on feelings and hunches. This hat is open-minded and non-judgmental. Using the information gathered from feelings and emotions, you should be able to intuitively relate these feelings to the problem you are trying to solve.


A red hat thinker’s objectives include:

  • Make intuitive insights known.
  • Seek out your team’s hunches and feelings.
  • Reveal an idea’s hidden strengths.
  • Use instinct to identify potential weaknesses.
  • Find internal conflicts


Red thinking hat questions may include:

  • What is my gut feeling about this solution?
  • Based on feelings, is there another way to fix this problem?
  • What are our feelings about the choice we are making?
  • Does our intuition tell us this is the right solution



Green thinking hats

Green hats are used for creative thinking. This thinking hat lets you think outside the box to explore more possibilities and bend the rules of problem-solving. This particular  creative thinking should be free from judgment and criticism


Keep in mind that as you work with the green thinking hat, you are free to express any idea that comes to mind. Even ideas that may sound crazy can have a kernel of feasibility that can put you on the right path to solving your problem


The green hat may ask questions such as:

  • Do alternative possibilities exist?
  • Can we do this another way?
  • How can we look at this problem from other perspectives?
  • How do we think outside the box?



Blue thinking hat

This hat provides a management role and will help you analyse the situation. When wearing the blue hat, your job is to manage the thinking of the other hats to ensure that the team stays focused and works more efficiently toward a workable solution. The role makes sure the other hats are being used correctly

Specifically, the blue hat seeks to:

  • Efficiently and effectively improve the thinking process.
  • Ask the right questions that help you direct and focus your thinking.
  • Maintain and manage agendas, rules, goals, and tasks.
  • Organize ideas and proposals, and draw up action plans.

Questions that help  in the blue hat role may include:

  • What is the issue
  • How do we define the problem?
  • What is our goal and expected outcome?
  • What will we achieve by solving the problem?
  • What is the best method for going forward?
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Six DeBono Hats is a advance method used for decision making innovated by Edward DE Bono.


Six DeBono Hats is a some advantages over traditional brainstorming for decision making.


Traditional brainstorming having not any structure defined for ideas generation & decision making. Group can generate ideas & decision making based on discussion with in group while in case of Six DEBono Hats technique ideas generation and decision make in a very structure way. It follows 6 Thinking Hats principles. 


1> Blue Hat : It allows clear focus and define the problem.

2> White Hat : It allows neural way of thinking without any bias.

3> Black Hat : It allows to think about what can goes wrong in terms of risks, disadvantage, barriers.

4> Red Hat : It allows to express your feelings in your ideas without any justification.

5> Yellow Hat : It allows to think what can go positively in terms of opportunities, benefits,  improvements.

6> Green Hat : It allows to focus on creativity which is very much closely linked to lateral thinking.

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Brainstorming  and Six Thinking Hat are both creative techniques for generating ideas/solutions to defined problem. These techniques are similar and varied in their own unique ways. Six Thinking hat technique was developed latter in 1980's hence it provides an approach which aims to address some of the shortcomings of traditional brainstorming ( which was developed in 1940's) to make the creativity session more productive.  Both the techniques are group based. Here is a brief on why Six Thinking Hat might have certain advantages over traditional brainstorming 


1.  Both leverage a group to generate ideas; however traditional brainstorming does not addresses the point people in the group will have different styles of thinking and this difference in style needs to managed well to make the session productive. While both the group techniques use facilitator's, Six Thinking Hats takes into account the varied thinking approach and how to channelize them in a productive way. Facilitator needs to understand and use the hats accordingly to bring the appropriate perspectives.


2. Initial stage of session in Brainstorming & Six Thinking hat is similar however where Six Thinking Hat scores over Brainstorming is the middle part of the session which is a period of high volatility, where using the Six Hats discussions can be made more productive, reduce confrontation, dilute inhibition and holistically cover multiple aspects. Process is more disciplined in Six Hat Thinking. 


3. Each idea is viewed from multiple lens in Six Thinking Hat approach in a structured way hence the output quality is usually  refined and comprehensive compared to traditional brainstorming. 



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Six Hats Thinking.



In day to day life every individual comes across different types of problem and few are having very logical solutions. Few need some judgment and others need information and knowledge to solve. There are some problems can’t be solved by straightforward thinking or simply traditional way of problem solving. To ease this problem solving generally we call a group of peoples with different mind sets (different departments) and collect their opinions, suggestions, ideas (creative thoughts), and each idea is discussed in length and finally group arrives to a conclusion which is most suitable and agreed to the group. This final conclusion is accepted to all as it is most Beneficial solution.


This is nothing but the Brainstorming between different individuals who are allowed to put forward their thoughts, opinions or ideas what ever comes to their mind. This whatever is nothing but the output of their lateral thinking.


Lateral thinking – is the creative way of reasoning the facts and figures. Creative is not an obvious thinking approach of step by step reasoning, it applies some thing very different, some thing commonly known as Out of the box thinking. There is no restriction on applying ones mind in any direction using any concept may or may not look relevant in first step.

Lateral thinking was extensively emphasized by Edward De Bono in his book- The Use of Lateral Thinking (1967).


Further Dr. Edward De Bono written the book – Six Thinking Hats. The Book Six Thinking Hats makes use of lateral thinking of group of people to arrive a beneficial solution to a common problem.

Each hat is having particular scope of thinking for a particular time. There is also a sequence to be followed for wearing the hats (may be virtual ) right from start to end to come to a beneficial solution.


Let us see each hat in details and scope of the activities to be followed.


1.       BLUE – “The Thinking about Thinking” – As name suggest to start any thinking there has to be planning how thinking to proceed. Blue Hat controls the brain storming process by asking team members their thoughts and ask to summaries. Hence generally it is starting hat and also at the End.


2.       WHITE – Fact and information – While in White Hat – all participants just think about Data and information available. No judgment  and opinions are given the thoughts.


3.       Red – Feelings and Emotions – This the free flowing of thoughts without any judgment or explanation. This is the Time to vent out any air, feeling or conflicts in the air. This is very useful to bring all thoughts and feeling out, it helps to settle the dust very quickly.


4.       Black Hat – Caution and Critical Judgment – This hat is critical as it funnels the thinking and ask for only realistic solution. It also do not allow Group thinking as some times it is influential.


5.       Yellow – Optimistic and Positive View about things – While in this Hat every one think about Logical Benefits of the Proposal. It funnels all unrealistic solutions and team can come to a conclusion.


6.       Green – Creative Thinking – In this Hat every one is encouraged to explore divergent thinking, Lateral thinking to generate alternate ideas and options.


Advantages of Six Thinking Hat –

1.       Brain storming is very essential step to arrive at a solution which is beneficial in real sense. In traditional way it happens in a very haphazard and unstructured way.

2.       Six Thinking Hats – Gives a structure and sequence of thinking.

3.       Each Hat is having very specific purpose right from – very technical to emotional. White hats deals with only Data and information. Red hats deals with emotions to clear fumes within and a clear mind for creative thinking. Green hats allows creative thinking and Yellow funnels them to only realistic and beneficial solutions.

4.       Every hat is having very specific purpose and it focuses to specific goal and gives exact way of thinking to arrive a beneficial solution.

5.       Thus Six Thinking Hat give a very structured way to bring all divergent minds together and encourage them for lateral thinking to bring a realistic and beneficial solution agreed by all team members.


To Solve the Problem following sequence of Hats is used -


Blue - White - Green - Red - Yellow - Black - Green - Blue




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Congratulations to all whose answers are published! We could not select a winner from today as published answers do not have an example which was an expectation from a winnning response. 


If you had replied but your response is not published, it is most likely that your response did not pass the plagiarism check. In case you want to know how do we carry out plagiarism check, please connnect with me and I will be happy to show the process. 

Please go through the case study by Benchmark Expert Venugopal. 

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