The Hat system helps to conduct meetings in 20% of its normal time.

Thinking is the ultimate human resource.

The main difficulty of thinking is confusion. Emotions, information, logic, hope & creativity all crowd in on us.  Confusion is the biggest enemy of good thinking. We try to do too many things at the same time. We look for information. We are affected by feelings. We seek new ideas & options. We have to be cautious. We want to find benefits. Those are a lot of things that need doing. Juggling with six balls at the same time is rather difficult. Tossing up one ball at a time is much easier. The concept is that of the six thinking hats. Putting on any one of these hats defines a certain type of thinking.

It is the sheer convenience of the six thinking hats that is the main value of the concept. It is an alternative to the argument system.

The method suggested in this article by de Bono can also be called parallel thinking, which means that everyone is looking in the same direction. The whole point of parallel thinking is that the experience & intelligence of everyone should be used in each direction. With the Six Hats method, the intelligence, experience & knowledge of all the members of the group are fully used. Everyone is looking & working in the same direction. With parallel thinking, every thinker at every moment is looking in the same direction. The thoughts are laid out in parallel. You do not respond to what the last person has said. You simply add another idea in parallel. In the end, the subject is quickly explored quickly.

What are the different directions in which thinkers can be invited to look? This is where the hats come in.

There are six coloured hats corresponding to the six directions of thinking: White, Red, Black, Yellow, Green, Blue.

The White Hat wants everyone to focus on:

Information. The white hat is concerned with objective facts & figures. What information do we have; what information do we need; what information is missing; what questions do we need to ask; how are we going to get the information that we need?

When two offered pieces of information disagree, there is no argument on that point. Both pieces of information are put down in parallel. Only if it becomes essential to choose between them will a choice be made.

Imagine a computer that gives the facts & figures for which it is asked. The computer is neutral & objective. It does not offer interpretations or opinions. When wearing the white thinking hat, the thinker should imitate the computer.White hat thinking is a discipline & a direction. The thinker tries to be more neutral & more objective in the presentation of information. You can be asked to put on the white thinking hat or you can someone to put it on. You can also choose to put it on or take it off.

The Red hat wants everyone to focus on:

Feelings, intuition & emotions, anger.

The Black hat wants everyone to focus on:

Caution & difficulties. The black hat is cautious & careful. It points out the weaknesses in an idea.

The Yellow hat wants everyone to focus on:

Benefits, values. This hat is optimistic & covers hope & positive thinking.

The Green hat indicates creativity & new ideas.

The Blue hat is concerned with control, the organisation of the thinking process & the use of other hats. Like two bookends, the blue hat should always be used at the beginning & end of the session.

The first blue hat indicates: Why are we here, what are we thinking about, the definition of the situation (or problem), alternative definitions, what we want to achieve, where we want to end up, the background of the thinking, a plan for the sequence of hats to be used.

The final blue hat indicates: What we have achieved, outcome, conclusion, design, solution, next steps.

The “game” aspect of the Six Hats is very important. If a game is being played, then anyone who does not obey the rules of the game is considered uncooperative. If there is a switch from the black hat (caution) to the yellow hat (possible benefits) & a person continues to lay out the potential dangers, then that person is seen to be refusing to play the game. Getting people to “play the game” is a very powerful form of changing behaviour.

The “discipline” aspect of the Six Hats is very important. Members of the group must stay with the hat that is indicated at that moment. Only the leader can indicate a change of hat.

Under each hat, a person should be allowed only a minute to speak his mind. So if there are 4 people in a group, then only 4 minutes should be allowed under each hat. But if genuine ideas are still being put forward after that time, one can extend the time.