6 Thinking Hats

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Engineering Areas
Analysis & problem definition, Ideation & Conceptual design
Group or individual
Group
Amount of people
Up to 15, 15-25, 25+
Type of activity
Collaborative team setting
Duration
Between one and two hours
Type of class
Undetermined

Description

What is this technique about

This colourful strategy exposes learners to six different styles of thinking and helps them look at a problem from six different perspectives. It’s a simple mental metaphor. Each of the Six Thinking Hats has a different colour and each colour represents a unique way to look at an issue. Hats are easy to put on and to take off. If not available, other subjects of the same range of colours can be used – balloons, sticks, paper sheets. Each hat is a different colour which signals the mode of thinking. In a group setting each member thinks using the same thinking hat, at the same time, on the same thinking challenge.

Where does it come from 

Six Thinking Hats, a teaching model promoting critical and creative thinking, is used for exploring different perspectives towards a complex situation or challenge. It is  a system designed by Edward de Bono. Although the Six Thinking Hats was originally devised to help organizations conduct more efficient meetings, its use as a tool in education is equally valuable.

For which purposes it is used (why in your engineering teaching)

Thinking hats can be used at many different levels and for many different situations. Making good decisions as a group requires discussion where different perspectives and options are considered:

    • Group Project Brainstorming
    • Big Group Decisions
    • Preparation for Debates
    • Controversial Issues
    • Challenging Perspectives of Current Events
    • Developing Critical Thinking
    • Developing Innovative Thinking
    • Preparation for Discussions
    • Structuring and Facilitating Discussions
    • Problem Solving Situations

How to use it

Start the session by explaining that the Six Hats technique is designed to encourage everyone to approach a problem or issue from a variety of different perspectives.

Step 1 – Present a problem/issue to the group
Tell them that they are going to think about it from a variety of perspectives. There will be 6 types of thinkers – those who are in those roles will only address the issue from that particular perspective. The facilitator should initially explain to the participants that they are going to view the problem in six different ways.

White Hat: Discuss the facts and other objective information about the problem.  “I think we need some white hat thinking at this point…” means “Let’s drop the arguments and proposals, and look at the data base”.

Red Hat: Share feelings and emotions about the issue. “Putting on my red hat, I feel this is a terrible proposal.

Black Hat: Present negative aspects, or worst case scenarios, regarding the situation. The devil’s advocate or why something may not work.

Yellow Hat: Consider positives, or advantages, of the situation. Why something will work and why it will offer benefits.

Green Hat: Consider creative ideas that come from looking at the problem in a new way. This is the hat of creativity, alternatives, proposals, what is interesting, provocations and changes.

Blue Hat: Sum up all that is learned. “Putting on my blue hat, I think we should do some greener hat thinking at this point.”

Step 2 – Then the team starts focusing the discussion on a particular approach
The team members deliberately choose which hat they want to start with. For example, if they choose the blue hat, the discussion may start with everyone assuming the Blue hat to discuss how the meeting will be conducted and to develop the goals and objectives. The discussion may then move to Red hat thinking in order to collect opinions and reactions to the problem. This phase may also be used to develop constraints for the actual solution such as who will be affected by the problem and/or solutions. Next the discussion may move to the Yellow and then the Green hat in order to generate ideas and possible solutions. Next the discussion may move between White hat thinking as part of developing information and Black hat thinking to develop criticisms of the solution.

Step 3 After developing a set of solutions
The participants examine the set critically and choose one solution.

How to implement this techniques online

Doing this activity virtually requires a bit more preparation, here are some tips:

    • preparing a workbook in advance which everybody can access, or
    • before using the breakout session, sending everybody a link to a cloud document where they can find the instructions, or
    • drawing their attention to materials they might need during training (e.g. a piece of paper, a pair of scissors or a pen).

When you use the breakout session, you – the facilitator – can of course always join the breakout rooms to clarify an activity, but as for virtual team work, also for a virtual training the following rule applies: “Be as clear, explicit and concise as possible!”

Make sure to repeat the instructions given in writing again at the beginning of the session. Very often it happens that some participants might not read the email carefully or at all before the session. Doing a quick check-off at the start, ensures that as many participants as possible have the necessary props (e.g. paper, post-it, scissors, etc.).

It Is Important that the you only monitor the discussion of the groups, you should not try to direct their Idea.

Make sure that the students feel comfortable during implementation of the technique.

Examples and/or testimonials

Dr. Özge Andiç Çakır, Professor of the Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship of EGE University, has used the technique during the course: Course: Creative Thinking as an Art. This is an elective course from the University of EGE elective courses pool, any grade or undergraduate student can select this course. The aim of the course is to comprehend creative thinking methods in order to develop business ideas suitable for the changing world order. The 6 Thinking Hat technique is used in a group activity where students work towards solving a specific problem.

The benefits of using this technique In this classroom Is that It enhances the problem-solving capabilities of the students, help them to solve a specific problem and learn a technique for discussing an Issue while looking from different perspectives. For the evaluation of the effectiveness of using this technique In the classroom, I ask an open ended question and tell them to solve this question from different perspectives, putting different hats on.

The feedback from students is also positive, they indicate that they learn how to solve problems looking from different perspectives and this widens their vision. For their business life, they think that they will use this methods In their company, for problem solving with a small group.

Tools needed

You will need a platform to share screens and communicate with the participants, such as for instance Zoom, MS Teams or similar.

A variety of other tools can be used in the activity, from sharing documents, brainstorming tools and polling activities.

    • Miro
    • Mural
    • Concept Board
    • Kahoot
    • Padlet
    • Canva
    • Mentimeter
    • PollEverywhere
    • Nearpod
    • Mindmeister
    • Mindmup
    • Teammate 360
    • Evernote

Resources

Links

The de Bono Group. Six Thinking Hats. https://www.debonogroup.com/services/core-programs/six-thinking-hats/

MindTools. Six Thinking Hats. https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTED_07.htm

Wikipedia. Six Thinking Hats. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Thinking_Hats

Videos

IndigoTrainingUK. (2008, July 4). Edward de Bono – discusses the Six Thinking Hats. [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://youtu.be/o3ew6h5nHcc

albin05. (2006, December 11). Edward de Bono on creative thinking. [Video]. YouTube. Available at: https://youtu.be/UjSjZOjNIJg

Papers

Serrat, O. (2017). Wearing Six Thinking Hats. In: Knowledge Solutions (pp. 615-618). Springer, Singapore. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-10-0983-9_67

Setyaningtyas, E. W., Radia, E. H. (2019, April 29). Six Thinking Hats Method for Developing Critical Thinking Skills. In: Journal of Educational Science and Technology (EST), 5(1):82. DOI: 10.26858/est.v5i1.8243

Books

Bono, E. de. (1999). Six Thinking Hats. Back Bay Books. ISBN: 978-0316178310