"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Six Hats of Thinking

Who doesn’t like hats? I honestly couldn’t tell you, but I do know who is especially fond of them: Edward de Bono – a Maltese psychologist, renowned for his theories on lateral thinking and creativity. In a world of diversity and interpretation, it is important to examine each individual’s approach to thinking. This brings us to our topic, de Bono’s six hats of thinking.

Six hats, six colors, six ways to think. Each person might identify themselves with more than one approach, and the hat she or he will wear at a certain time depends almost entirely on the situation. In order to explain the hats, we will use an example: a small store is being robbed by a masked man.

A wearer of the white hat is the factual thinker, who processes information that is known or needed. Thoughts: a small store is being robbed by a masked man. The store owner loses money, while the robber gains.

A wearer of the yellow hat is the positive and optimistic thinker, who sees the bright perspective in every situation and explore for its value or benefit. Thoughts: the robber is probably poor and will now be able to feed his family. The store owner will recover and will not suffer long-term consequences from the robbery.

A wearer of the black hat is the critical and pessimistic thinker, who sees reality from a devil’s advocate perspective, and will always argue why something might not work. Thoughts: maybe the police will come in before the robbery is completed. The robber is a major disgrace to society and is being disrespectful to the store owner.

A wearer of the red hat is the emotional thinker, who uses feelings and intuition to analyze reality. Thoughts: Poor store owner! His family will suffer terribly from the robbery. The robber will be happy.

A wearer of the blue hat is the controlling thinker, who manages processes and oversees situations, especially the “big picture.” Thoughts: the robber realizes that he can get caught and go to jail, but he robs the store because he needs the money. The store owner understands that he is going to lose money because of the robbery.

A wearer of the green hat is the creative thinker, who focuses on using perception, alternatives and possibilities to come up with new ideas. Thoughts: the government should help the robber find a job so he doesn’t have the need to steal. The store owner should have a better security system so the robber would be too afraid to rob the store.

Comprehending the idea behind the six hats of thinking is essential for the 21st century company. It is crucial for the modern manager to understand that people think differently, since diversity constitutes the main element of the multicultural and versatile world we live in. In other words, the six hats of thinking are an excellent explanation of a company’s success, through the encouragement of diversity in the employees’ ways of thinking. For instance, one employee might contribute with a factual and logical approach (white hat), while another might have creative ideas (green hat) and another one might add the critical element (black hat). The best manager understands this phenomenon and will encourage his or her team to develop their thoughts, so to create a rich and assorted bank of ideas and alternatives.

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