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A business model to brainstorm problems and generate new ideas

Edward de Bono is a physician, psychologist and consultant specializing in lateral thinking. He published the Six Thinking Hats as a book in 1985.


Edward de Bono believes that there is much wasted time in meetings. He also believes that many meetings do not arrive at suitable conclusions because they are adversarial – people argue one point of view and others argue another with no agreement. His 6 thinking hats is a tool for improving the structure of meetings by parallel thinking – everyone thinking along similar lines. 


People don’t have to physically wear a coloured hat. The idea is that they own the concept of the coloured hat and what it stands for. Team members wearing these coloured hats are now able to think clearly and objectively and look at problems from new and different angles. It is a tool to get people’s thoughts in parallel lines so that they generate more and better ideas. It is therefore a tool for creative and lateral thinking.


Each of the 6 coloured hats has a purpose:


1. White Hat – this is the hat of information and of facts and figures. Whoever wears the White Hat must consider the validity of the facts.

2. Red Hat – this is the hat of hunches, emotions and feelings. The people wearing the Red Hat must consider the place of emotions in the thinking process.

3. Black Hat – this is the hat that prompts people to be careful and cautious. It points out difficulties, dangers and potential problems and as a result it prevents mistakes.

4. Yellow Hat – this hat is about optimism. When wearing the Yellow Hat you look at the positives and the benefits of an idea.

5. Green Hat – this is the hat of creative and lateral thinking. The people wearing the Green Hat need to be provocative, suggesting new concepts and alternative ideas.

6. Blue Hat – this is the hat of control and monitoring. The wearer ensures that the ideas remain focused and that the guidelines in the model are observed.

The hats represent a specific direction of thinking. This is the strength of the argument for the model because it focuses thoughts of a particular kind. Each hat may be used for a limited time before a new one is donned. Equally, a group broken into teams may pass a coloured hat from one group to another so that everyone has a chance of exploring the thoughts that are generated by that hat.

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