6 Thinking Hats

6 Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats maximizes collaboration, stimulates creativity, and improves the team decision-making process.


Created by Edward de Bono in 1985, this process helps teams think through problems or opportunities from multiple perspectives, but one at a time in order to avoid too many angles crowding your thinking.

The idea is simple: Different ways of thinking are divided into 6 clear functions and roles, identified by a colored symbolic “thinking hat.”

How to Use

When approaching a problem or seizing an opportunity, team members mentally wear and switch hats to approach the issue at hand from multiple perspectives. This process also forces individuals to get out of their habitual thinking patterns and redirect their thoughts, which promotes more innovative thinking.  Depending on your problem, hats can be used in many sequences and not all hats are necessary.

So what do the hats mean?

  • White Hat represents information known or needed. “The facts, just the facts.”
  • Yellow Hat symbolizes brightness and optimism. Under this hat you explore the positives, and probe for value and benefit.
  • Black Hat represents judgment. While wearing this hat, imagine the difficulties and dangers, and where things might go wrong.
  • Red Hat signifies feelings and intuition. When using this hat you can express emotions and feelings and share fears, likes, dislikes, loves, and hates.
  • Green Hat focuses on creativity, possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas. It’s an opportunity to express new concepts and new perceptions.
  • Blue Hat is for managing the thinking process. It’s the control mechanism that ensures the Six Thinking Hats guidelines are observed.


  • Initial ideas – Blue, White, Green, Blue
  • Quick feedback – Blue, Black, Green, Blue
  • Solving problems – Blue, White, Green, Red, Yellow, Black, Green, Blue
  • Identifying solutions – Blue, White, Green, Blue



  • Use Sharpie Markers (Easier to Read)
  • Post-It Notes (3″ x 3″)
  • Easel Pad (Large 24″ x 30 ” Post-it Notes)


  • Prior to meeting, identify an issue or problem to be solved with the group
  • For each hat that you are using.  Prepare individual easel pads with a hat & category name at the top. For example: Red (Emotions), White (Facts), Yellow (Benefits), Green (Creativity), Black (Judgement)
  • Hang easel pad papers on wall in your order of operation
  • Send White Hat questions to the team so that they are prepared with facts and figures.


  • For each hat (1 at a time):
    • You have 2 minutes of individual brainstorming per hat
    • Team focuses on answering one hat at a time
    • Write one (1) idea per Post-IT note
    • Be specific – use only 6-7 words per Post-It note
      • For example:  “More phone training”, instead of “training”
  • After 2 minutes:
    • Each team member present their Post-It notes
      • Five (5) minutes for the entire team to present
    • Team member puts Post-It note on the easel paper for the current hat
    • Group similar ideas together in each hat
    • Continue in this fashion until you move through all of the hats
  • Repeat for each hat that you decide to use.  Remember not all of the hats need to be used.

The following Six Thinking Hats presentations can walk a team through the process.  These presentations can be modified for your specific needs.  It generally takes 1.5 hours to complete the exercise.

For more information about this process and for other examples of how to use it, visit DeBono’s website.