Edward De Bono, the inventor of "Six Hat Thinking", sadly passed away in June 2021. He was a world-renowned philosopher who inspired "lateral thinking" for business leaders, and he lived by the motto, "if you never change your mind, why have one?". As an agency we started using the Six Hats in 2001, and we still train people today, using the Six Hats as a simple and effective tool to guide more creative facilitation.
To see the Six Hats in action, check out a short video from our creative facilitation training course; and keep reading to see how we use the Six Hats for more effective creative facilitation, to better manage "group thinking" and to help "set the agenda for creativity".
1. Green Hats - Fresh New Ideas / Anything is Possible
This is the hat you want people to wear when facilitating teams to generate fresh and new ideas. By wearing the hat, as a creative facilitator, you are giving teams the permission to think the impossible. This is especially useful when working with teams who might be looking to quickly judge, or to kill ideas. However, Green Hats alone are not enough. In most cases, when running workshops, we recommend that teams first focus Green Hat thinking on specific insights and pain points (defined in advance of the meeting). This can then be combined with the use of different creative facilitation and idea generation techniques.
2. Red Hats - Gut Reactions / Selecting Early Ideas with Potential
Once your team have generated LOTS of different ideas, and explored different angles, you can then get them to wear the Red Hats. When facilitating workshops or online sessions, we use the Red Hats to ask individuals or pairs to quickly vote on "early ideas" that they feel have potential. The Red Hats give you permission to do this exercise relatively quickly, as you are getting people to use their instinct and "gut reactions" (hence red, as the colour of blood and passion). As an agency, we now run all our facilitation training and ideation workshops with our online platform Zip-Zap Ideas®. Using Red Hat thinking, we normally get people to use the Zip-Zap Ideas® to award love hearts to "early ideas" with potential.
3. Yellow Hats - What's Good About An Idea / Positive Thinking
As a creative facilitator, once you have got the group to identify some "early ideas with potential", you can now use the Yellow and Black Hats to encourage more objective and critical thinking. In most cases we recommend that you first encourage positive thinking, get people to wear the Yellow Hats. This is especially relevant for members of a team who might be "naturally negative". Get these individuals to wear the Yellow Hats and to call out all the things that are or might be good about an idea. During our Creative Facilitation Training Courses, when reviewing ideas, we sometimes split groups into Yellow Hat Teams (for positive feedback) and Black Hat Teams (for negative feedback). This can be made fun and can bring energy to a creative workshop.
4. Black Hats - What's Bad / Why An Idea Won't Work
Combined with the Yellow Hats, the Black Hats allow a creative facilitator to better manage and control group feedback. In most cases, people naturally want to be critical and can't wait to "put on their black hats". But if you have explained the agenda and the hats in advance, most people are happy to wait to start "killing off ideas". If you have explained the hats in advance, as a facilitator, you can remind people "not to wear their black hats" if they start to be critical too early in a brainstorming session (during Green Hat thinking tasks". The Black Hats are also really good to wear when a team have identified an idea that they "really like"......by "Black Hatting" the solution, you can encourage the team to explore any weaknesses that they need to fix. Take a look at the hats in action in one of our Ideation Hothouse Workshops.
5. White Hats - Missing Information / What Do We Need To Know
Towards the end of an ideation workshop, as a creative facilitator, you may want to get a group to generate ideas on what further information is required to help make decisions or to better evaluate the potential of a new idea. For example, what information is missing or what further testing might be required. White Hat thinking is a way of encouraging this behaviour, with "white" representing a "blank piece of blank paper". Some of the most creative companies we work with, ingrain "White Hat" thinking into their culture, as they look to constantly "test and learn". However, beware that White Hat thinking is a replacement for Black Hats, with people looking to "kill fresh thinking" by requesting more and more "missing information". In most of the projects that we run, White Hat thinking links to how we test and screen the appeal of potential ideas and concepts with target customers.
6. Blue Hats - The Planning Hat / The Agenda for Creativity
Edward De Bono's Blue Hats are all about pulling together the plan for creative thinking. In fact, as a Creative Facilitator, it is a hat you will need to wear at ALL times. For example, you need Blue Hat thinking as you plan an innovation project considering the innovation objectives, which people to involve, how to run a workshop session, and what idea testing might follow. For our Creative Facilitation Training courses, we encourage facilitators to use the Blue Hats to follow a 5-step process. This includes a broader definition of the problem (step 1), detailed exploration of the problem to define insights and pain points (step 2 and 3), followed by idea generation and idea evaluation (step 4 and 5). Click here to see five-steps for winning ideas.