The Six Thinking Hats and Coaching

The Six Thinking Hats and Coaching

Six Thinking Hats - Edward De Bono

It is an oldie, but a goodie!  Why reinvent the wheel I say!

As a Coach I find that quite often, I am being a “thinking partner” for my client.  By having someone who they can talk to and who will ask questions, our clients find their own resolutions.

Based on Edward De Bono’s work in the 1980’s this, to me, is a simple and clear way to be a great thinking partner with your client or with your team.  It is a technique that is creative and constructive and offers a lot of opportunity for feedback and suggestions. It also focuses the aspect of thought onto one area at a time.  Did I mention it was simple!

Obviously, there are six different hats to the technique.  Each hat is used one at a time and if in a group, everyone is wearing that hat at the same time.  This allows all to be focussed on the same aspect, and less on who said what.

Hat 1: The White Hat

This hat focusses exclusively on information.  It is a fact-based hat, so be aware of assumptions.  If they arise, how is this going to be confirmed or denied.

What information do we have?  What information don’t we have?  How are we going to get the information we need?

What do we know to be true?  What is supposed or assumed?  How are we going to confirm this or let it go?

All information is written down in the white hat, even if it is in disagreement.  The information may may range from hard facts, which can be checked, to rumours or opinions, which exist.

Hat 2: The Red Hat

The red hat allows the free expression of feelings, intuition, hunches and emotions without apology and without explanation.  The red hat asks a person to express his or her feelings on the subject at this moment in time (later the feelings could change).

There must never be any attempt to justify or give the basis for the feelings.  Feelings exist and should be allowed into the discussion provided they are signaled as feelings and not disguised as logic.  Intuition may be based on a great experience of the field and may be very valuable.

This hat is about exposing the emotions and not judging them.

How do you feel when you think of that?

What does your gut tell you about this?

When that happens what occurs for you?

 Hat 3:  The Black Hat

Think of a judge’s robes, which are usually black.  The black hat is for caution and stops us doing things, which are dangerous, damaging or unworkable. So here, the black hat is for risk assessment.  The black hat is for critical thinking: why something does not fit our policy, our strategy, our resources etc.

The black hat is a most useful hat but, unfortunately, is very easy to overuse. Arguments have their place in discussion but are not useful on their own.  They also require reasoning and the search for truth.

What, if anything, would be a detrimental outcome from this action?

Is there any aspect of your life that you are denying yourself in right now?

What would stop you from making this change?

 Hat 4:   The Yellow Hat

The yellow hat is the logical positive hat, yellow for sunshine and optimism.  Under the yellow hat the thinker seeks out the values and benefits.  The thinker looks to see how the idea can be made workable and put into practice.

The yellow hat is harder than the black hat and requires much more effort.  The brain is naturally tuned to point out what is wrong and what is not as it should be.  In order to avoid danger and mistakes we are naturally cautious.  The yellow hat requires effort and this effort can often be well rewarded.  Suddenly we see values and benefits, which we had never noticed before.

Allow this hat to offer creativity without which we would never see the benefits of an emerging idea.

What will occur when you reach your goal?

Assuming anything is possible, what is possible for you both in work and life?

What is important to you about achieving this goal?

 Hat 5:  The Green Hat

This hat generates growth and energy. It is a creative hat.  Wearing the green hat, we put forward alternatives and seek out new ideas.  We modify and change suggested ideas.  We generate possibilities.  We use provocation and movement to produce new ideas.

The green hat is the action hat to open up possibilities.  At the green-hat stage things are only ‘possibilities’; they have to be developed and checked out later.

Accepting that all ideas are positive, what are three ways we can move toward achieving your outcomes?

And three more?

And three more, it doesn’t matter how crazy!  Let the imagination play.

Hat 6: The Blue Hat

Think of the blue sky and overview. The blue hat is the control hat.  This hat focusses on management of the thinking process.  The conductor of the orchestra manages the orchestra and gets the best out of the musicians.  The ringmaster in a circus makes sure that there is no confusion and that things follow in the proper sequence.  So, the blue hat is for looking at the thinking process itself.

The blue hat is concerned with defining the problem and what is being thought about.  It is also concerned with outcomes, conclusions, summaries and what happens next.  The blue hat sets up the sequence of the other hats to be used and ensures that the rules of the Six Hat framework are adhered to.  The blue hat is the organizer of the thinking process.

So, where are we going to start?

Looking at what has been discussed here, what’s next?

Now that we have explored this, what are your thoughts?

This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.

Christine Walter - Life Coach, NLP and mBIT Trainer
Christine Walter

Christine Walter is a Master NLP Practitioner and NLP Trainer, Hypnotherapist, Life Coach and mBit Coach.  She offers training courses via the NZ School of Life Coaching and through her own business Lodestone. She is also a Director of Australia and New Zealand Coaching Alliance.