Six Thinking Hats – Decision Making Skills

Image of 5 hats on a stand out in the street. Each hat is a different material, style and color

You are faced with a specific situation, and it is time to make a decision. But how do you know it is the right one? Depending on your perspective, you can choose one option and it could be the right decision. But when you look at the same situation with a different perspective a different option might be the right one. Are you traditionally someone that sees all of the positives without recognizing the downfalls? Do you normally lack creativity while solving a problem? Is going with your gut the extent of your decision making process? Then, the Six Thinking Hats model by Edward de Bono is for you.

By “wearing” the Six Thinking Hats, you are forced to see a decision from all angles and aspects. This is a great tool to solve problems because it offers different viewpoints to help you make a smart and calculated decision. It helps to eliminate the obstacle of having too many viewpoints. Having too many perspectives can bring just as much confusion to the decision making process as too few. 

What Hat To Wear

To understand how “wearing” these six hats can guide the course of your decision, you must get to know each one of them. Each hat is characterized by a specific color and represents a specific viewpoint. They are each described below: 

White Hat

When you “wear” the white hat​, you judge based on the data that you have available. If you “put on” this hat, you will take into account any and all numbers, scientific research, and projections. By making a decision with this hat, you are assuming that all calculations are correct and have been interpreted precisely. Others can be easily convinced of the decision this hat makes because it is backed up with numbers. 

Red Hat

When you “wear” the red hat​, you utilize gut feeling to represent your decision. Hunches, impulses, emotion, and inclinations all come into play with this hat. You can consider both your’s and other’s intuition when coming to a conclusion. These personalized factors make this hat’s decision one of the hardest to persuade others to get on board with. 

Black Hat

When you “wear” the black hat​, you acknowledge the negative downfalls. This is the hat that gets to play “Negative Nancy” and see every possible downside and pitfall of a selection. You must try and think of all of the ways that the decision will not work out. This hat is one of the most important ones to “wear” because it is vital to recognize the weak point in a proposal. By recognizing these fragile points, you can make your decision and plan stronger.

Yellow Hat

When you “wear” the yellow hat​, you consider the situation in a positive light. Focus on all of the favorable and positive components in the situation. This hat makes you recognize the strengths in your plan. If concerns arise regarding the outcome of your decision, “put on” this hat to focus on reasons that build confidence. 

Green Hat

When you “wear” the green hat​, you think creatively. Get those juices flowing, because the most innovative idea may be the best concept anyone has brought up. This is a vital hat because it may bring some of the best insight. This hat’s contribution is rarely responded to with negative feedback because inventive ideas are so individualistic. 

Blue Hat

When you “wear” the blue hat​, you are the control variable of the group. Every great think tank needs a mediator. The blue hat is used to  direct, redirect, referee other hats. It’s used to state what needs to be accomplished during the time given.

These six hats can be “worn” during a decision that you make alone, or in a group style meeting. When “worn” alone, you would put one hat on at a time and take note of the decision and key factors that influenced your decision. When “worn” in a group meeting setting, six individuals would represent each hat and come to a conclusion based upon the perspective of their respective hat. By choosing to use the Six Thinking Hats instead of a single viewpoint decision in a group environment, you can eliminate disputes between individuals that have come to personal decisions based on a single perspective. 

Six Thinking Hats Example

Imagine a group of you and your friends are going out for dinner one night. You all are having a hard time agreeing on a place to eat. The following story is a possible conversation that may happen between all the different hats to help you understand the concept. 

White Hat Example

The white hat ​begins the conversation by stating that there are three restaurants within a ten-minute drive including Maria’s Place, Toro’s, and Donny’s Diner. She explains that Maria’s Place is an Italian restaurant, Toro’s sells only pizza, and Donny’s Diner has a variety of American-styled foods like burgers and chicken. 

Red Hat Example

The red hat ​says she’s been wanting to try Maria’s Place for a long time. She says she heard from a few sources that food from both Toro’s and Donny’s Diner was unsatisfying and occasionally made customers sick. She was nervous that the group would get food poisoning or regret spending their money there.

Black Hat Example

The black hat ​states that Maria’s Place is much more expensive than the other two restaurants. He is unsure whether the cost of the food will be worth the money they would spend. 

Yellow Hat Example

The yellow hat ​reminds the black hat and the rest of the group that Maria’s Place, while more expensive, has a great atmosphere and a great reputation for food. They have won multiple awards for best Italian in the state. Maria’s Place also offers a selection of desserts while the other two restaurants don’t. 

Green Hat Example

The green hat ​would think outside of the box. They may bring up the idea to cook something at home together rather than going out and eating at a restaurant. They could all go to the grocery store and spend quality time together and make memories cooking while also saving money. 

Blue Hat Example

The blue hat ​takes the initiative to put the group to a vote. Everybody could choose whether they’d want to go to one of the three restaurants talked about or if they’d rather make a homemade meal. In the end, the majority decided on cooking the homemade meal as the green hat recommended. 

After going through the process of listening to the points of view of each of the six hats, you will be more prepared to make an informed and enlightened decision.

Six Thinking Hats Example

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By: Madeline Bent