6 Thinking Hats

Last week, I shared my 6 Thinking Hats understanding with my team. Initially, I had no clear idea of what I will talk. I just got started knowing it for a while. I love sharing my thoughts, my understanding even I have not had a strong knowledge about them. I just, well, do it. It turns out the presentation went well. The team loved the idea, loved the way I shared with them. I can feel it. At the same time, the 6 Thinking Hats idea is more visible in my mind.

Here comes the story. My wife usually mentions about the tool. She loves the idea, the principles. She has trained the tool to his co-workers. She told me to check it out. At the same time, I have read other tools, such as Mind Map, Visual Thinker, … I, well, did not check the 6 Thinking Hats. One day while driving to work, I viewed it on youtube from the author de Bono. I highly recommend you view it. And you should view it many times, at least twice. The video fits well with my driving time. By the time I got to the company, the video ended. I got the idea. I loved it.

I will write what I understand about the tool. Warning: I do not claim what I understood is correct. Each has their own understanding, own translation of the tool. If you are reading this post, please use it as a reference. If you think I misunderstood something, please write in comments. I highly appreciate. Thank you! Let’s get started.


  1. Why? Solve problems?
  2. What?
  3. How to remember?


Why do we need 6 Thinking Hats? What kind of problems does it solve? I consider those are crucial questions.

The meeting

What were your last recent meetings? How were they going? More important, How did they end? When there is a problem, a team holds a meeting to discuss, to find a solution. They think that more heads are better than one. In terms of mathematics number, it is correct. The reality? Not so much as expected. There are many good meetings with good outcomes. I am aware of that. However, at the same time, there are many meetings with

  • Not many people involved. They are there but not there.
  • Everyone speaks their own way, their own language.
  • When an idea comes up, one person agrees, the other disagrees, … and so on.
  • People keep talking.

I wish you have good meetings

The personal thinking process

We learn many things technologies, culture, art, … How about how to think? Have we ever considered learning how to think? We often heard about *logical thinking*, *system thinking*, or *critical thinking*. Those are wonderful terms and techniques. However, looking back to the daily problem that people face, what are they? Does anything below ring any bell?

  • I do not know where to start.
  • I got stuck.
  • How do I know if I miss something?
  • ….

People, I meant many not all, are trapped in their thinking in a circle.

What is 6 Thinking Hats (6-T-H)?

Wikipedia has a full definition. For things like this, I usually have had a hard time to digest those definitions. I created my own version of understanding. At least, I can understand them in my way, thus, I can remember and use them.

6-T-H is a TOOL. It is crucial that you must see it as a TOOL. They are not some kind of magic hats that when you put on you get smarter immediately. No, it does not work that way. Just like any tool, you have to PRACTICE. Keywords are TOOLPRACTICE.

6-T-H is NOT a labeling system. There is no such a thing like: you are a black hat person, I am a white hat person or vice versa. The hats are not used to label people.

In a meeting or discussion, everyone must wear the same hat at a time.

Each hat with its color is a metaphor. The chosen color allows the metaphor to intercept the brain-default-thinking habit. The color plays the trigger role. When a color is named, a right thinking process is triggered.

Blue Hat: Managing, Controlling. When you start using 6-T-H tool, you wear it by default. Whenever you say to yourself “hey let’s try 6-T-H” you already wear the Blue Hat. Congratulations.

White Hat: Information. Just like a paper or a whiteboard. Collect the information.

Red Hat: Emotion. Express your emotion without judgment.

Black Hat: Danger, Risk, Alert. Such an important hat. You might want to ask yourself this question when wearing this hat: What can go wrong here? What am I missing here?

Yellow Hat: Value sensitive. The color reminds me of gold. Find the value, as many as possible. For everything, every situation, no matter how bad they are, there is always a good value out of it. Find it and you will see.

Green Hat: Opportunities, Possibilities. Explore all the possibilities. Sometimes, we are so focused on one thing. We are missing the many of others.

The common questions are

  1. How do I know when to wear what?
  2. What are the orders? Is there any specific order to follow?

Because there is no simple, single answer for them. They are holding people back. I would suggest that you should go with White Hat first, btw you have a Blue Hat for free when you decide to use 6-T-H. Next, you might want to use either Black, Yellow, or Green. Most of the time, I do not think that we need to use all of them.

The most important part is not about what/where/how to use them. The most important part is getting started, is to practice it. As you practice, you will define and build your own version of 6-T-H. The more you practice, the more natural it becomes to you. With time and dedicated practice, it becomes a part of your brain, of your thinking. And that is how you are thinking, that is how you are solving problems.

It is not going to work“, some might say. No, it does not. Unless you actually do it. If you are looking for ways to improve yourself, I highly suggest you try. If you think it is not going to work, or just a bullshit method, look up on the internet. You will see what people are saying about it. Still in doubt? Maybe you should try another method, maybe 6-T-H does not suit you.

How about using 6-T-H to decide if you should practice 6-T-H? That might be a cool idea.

How To Remember?

To practice anything, you have to remember them first. It must be a deep understanding, not a high school lecture. Back in the school, I was taught to learn by heart with sentences and bullet points. It works. I can do that. I can cite when someone asks. But

Back in the school, I was taught to learn by heart with sentences and bullet points. It works. I can do that. I can cite when someone asks. Problem? Think about it for a second. You are about to apply 6-T-H. Then your brain is interrupted by recalling those memories. By the time you remember them, you have lost your moment. The focus has been shifted. This remembering method is used for schools only where you learn knowledge, not skill.

Then I have had a chance to meet Mind Map. It is such a powerful tool. However, I do not feel it fits my need to remember 6-T-H. I find Mind Map is wonderful for creativity, exploring ideas, and taking notes.

Finally, I come to Visualization Thinking. I am not sure that term exists or there is a method for it. What I meant by Visualization Thinking is that I build an image of 6-T-H in my mind. The fastest way the brain can access information is by images. So instead of remembering sentences, remembering definitions, I remember images.

I built my own unique image of 6 Thinking Hats in my mind

Take an example of Yellow Hat. One might want to remember the definition in text. Or remember the keywords such as *value sensitive*. How about an image of a 9999 Golden Ring? When using an image, it allows you to explore the meanings. It is more powerful in that way.

That is just one hat. The problem is that I have to remember all hats in a connected way. Each hat is a dot. You have to connect the dot.

Here is how I built that image. I hope it can help you in some ways.

When I was listening to the video, when came to the Green Hat, the golf field came to my mind. Well, because there is a golf field in front of my condo (of course the golf field is not mine 😛 ). I took that scene, encoded, and visualized in an image.

White: A big empty paper. Imagine that I was about to paint a picture. Let’s put some information in.

Black: Draw a curly line in the middle of the paper. Black is the hell underneath. It means watch out, there is something underneath that you have not known yet.

Green: The grass on the field. Because the grass is green. There are plenty of them. They represent for opportunities, for possibilities.

Red: There is an in-love couple standing on the field. Thinking of a red face of an in-love girl. We are talking about emotion.

Yellow: Oh the man is proposing with a big golden ring. That is a good thing. Gold is value.

Blue: The sky. The sky is covering the whole picture, over the golf field. If the weather is good, the couple is still there, the grass is growing, looking good. Otherwise, things might tear apart and the picture must be re-drawn.

The image looks funny. Sometimes, it does not make sense at all. But that is the whole point. I created my own, unique image connecting everything I need to remember. I created that image weeks ago. I can access it anytime without losing a single small detail. The beautiful part of this approach is that when retrieving the image I can add more detail. It allows me to explore more.

The approach can be used in many areas of our life when we want to remember something when we are learning something. Imagination is a powerful tool. It helps us to connect the dots and put them into our long-term memory.

Final Thoughts

This is my first attempt with 6 Thinking Hats. The more I think about it, the more I like the approach. It is so simple that I can practice. The most important thing to remember is that it is a tool and has to be practiced a lot.

It is also super easy to get started. Here is how I do it. Notice that I do not apply it in every thinking or problem-solving. When I have a problem to solve, I will self-talk/self-ask:

  1. Ok, let’s apply 6 Thinking Hats to see what I can do. At that moment, I got the blue hat by default. I have started the thinking process
  2. Put on White Hat: What information do I have at hand? I write them down on paper. This is very important. If you do not write them out on a paper, you will have a problem with processing that information. Most of the time, you will be trapped in your thinking. Well, unless you are an expert.
  3. Put on Black Hat: What am I missing here? what is the real problem? Again, I write down on paper everything I can think of.
  4. Put on Green Hat: Ok Good. I have information. Let’s connect them. And find some possible outcomes – the possibilities. Sometimes, I use the Green Hat to answer the question “what is the real problem?”.
  5. Yellow Hat: What have I learn from this? This is where I extract the value from problems I have solved.

I have been working on improving my thinking pattern. Practice makes perfect.

I hope the post gives you another perspective when looking at 6 Thinking Hats. If you give it a try, I would love to hear your feedbacks on your progress. Otherwise, thank you for your time. I am very appreciated your reading time.

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