How 6 Hat Thinking Improved our Brainstorms

I recently introduced the team to Six Hat Thinking as a way to improve our brainstorms and how we think about issues.

Six Hat Thinking is a system that was designed by Edward de Bono. It’s used in group discussions, brainstorms, and individual thinking that includes, you guessed it, six different “hats.” This new way of looking at the process of thinking in a detailed and structured way keeps you on track while making your brainstorming more effective.

The 6 Hats

Each hat is a different color representing different ways of thinking. When you have that hat on, you think of nothing else.

  1. Blue – Your overview hat. You should ask questions like what is the subject? What is the goal? Look at the big picture when you have this hat on.
  2. White – Your information hat. Consider the information available, and write down the facts. Every detail you can think of… write it down.
  3. Red – Your emotional hat. Write down your gut reactions and emotional feelings toward the topic. How does this topic make you feel?
  4. Black – Your logical hat. With this hat on, write down all the reasons you should be cautious, realistic, and conservative.
  5. Yellow – Your optimism hat. List the benefits and all the positive outcomes that could happen.
  6. Green – Your creative hat. This is where you really start to “brainstorm.” It’s time to think outside the box and just start listing out every idea that comes to mind. No idea is a bad idea right now.
How to use the 6 hats in a brainstorm

You don’t necessarily put the 6 hats on in the order above for every brainstorm. You don’t even have to use all 6 every time. Depending on the situation, you can use different combinations these hats.

Here are some ways to put them to use:

  1. Initial ideas – Blue, White, Green, Blue
  2. Choosing between alternatives – Blue, White, Green, Yellow, Black, Red, Blue
  3. Identifying solutions – Blue, White, Black, Green, Blue
  4. Quick feedback – Blue, Black, Green, Blue
  5. Solving problems – Blue, White, Green, Red, Yellow, Black, Green, Blue

syrup brainstorm

Here’s what this might look like: You grab the team to help brainstorm some initial ideas for a new project (see # 1 above). You would first use your blue hat to write down the big picture of what’s going on. What is the point of the project, and what are your goals? You then put on your white hat and write down all the information you might need. Then, it’s time to brainstorm some ideas. Start to list every idea that comes to mind. Finally, you put that blue overview hat back on and compare your list of ideas to your initial list. Which ideas match best? Do you need more information to pick an idea from your list?

Doesn’t that sound a little more strategic than just jumping in a room and calling out ideas?

These 6 hats have expanded our brainstorms and challenged us to think in new ways. I’ve seen it make our brainstorms more constructive and even quicker — and we can all use some extra time, right? Rather than grabbing the team for a brainstorm and wasting time trying to solve something you haven’t fully identified, you now have a strategic way of thinking through the issue.

I challenge you to use 6 Hat Thinking today, whether it’s with a team or on your own. Reach out on Twitter and let me know how it went!

Benj Miller

Benj has built an exceptional team that leads and challenges clients in discovering and communicating the uniqueness of their businesses. Benj strongly believes the power of this team has a lot to do with our clients' success. In his role as Creative Director, Benj combines his eye for brand and his brain for the "third option" to help lead the design team to excellence.