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‘Six Thinking Hats’ Book Summary for Better Collaboration

How do you usually make decisions? Are you optimistic or are you cautious? 

Your decision-making style influences how you assess options, but a one-sided view may often miss key aspects like potential risks or opportunities. 

While it’s important to trust your gut, the best decisions consider all sides of a problem.

Juggling perspectives alone is tricky enough. But add a team to the mix, and decision-making can become a tug-of-war.

Enter the ‘Six Thinking Hats’ method! 🎩

This transformative approach lets you explore problems from various angles in a structured, conflict-free way. 

Edward de Bono’s book lets you embrace different viewpoints, and collaborate for solutions. In this Six Thinking Hats summary, we’ll share the process recommended by de Bono and see how it revolutionizes decision-making, fostering a balanced approach for you and your team.

Six Thinking Hats Book Summary at a Glance

The Six Thinking Hats, a concept developed by Nobel Prize nominee Dr. Edward de Bono, is a powerful tool for enhancing creativity, decision-making, and problem-solving in a team collaboration setting. 

This technique has perhaps offered the most transformative change in human thinking in the last few decades. Its widespread adoption is attributed to its simplicity, robustness, and effectiveness.

Six Thinking Hats
via Amazon

Remarkably, this method is versatile enough to be taught to people ranging from top-tier executives to even preschool children. It addresses the primary challenge in thinking—confusion—by compartmentalizing focus on individual aspects sequentially. 

The Six Hats method emphasizes the unique potential of ‘what can be’ rather than dwelling on ‘what is,’ encouraging a constructive approach towards problem-solving and forward planning.

Each of the six hats is represented by a color: white, red, black, yellow, green, and blue, which serves as a visual cue to adopt a specific thinking style. 

The application of these hats can be individual (as symbols) or sequential, facilitating both broad and focused exploration of subjects or problems.

The greatest strength of the Six Hats parallel thinking method is its flexibility. Its practitioners are not required to use all six hats in a given situation. Instead, they can adapt its usage to suit their specific context. 

To implement this method effectively—especially in sequence—discipline, timing, and adherence to guidelines are crucial.

While the benefits of the Six Thinking Hats method are particularly visible in group settings, it can be equally effective for individual use or in written reports. This decision-making technique reduces confusion, sharpens thinking skills, and leads to clearer decisions.

Key Takeaways from Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

The Six Thinking Hats technique is a revolutionary approach to problem-solving and decision-making that guides you and your team to solve an issue from six distinct perspectives. This method moves you beyond your instincts and biases to explore a range of perspectives.

By adopting this multifaceted approach, you and your teammates can evaluate each perspective without the pressure of immediate judgment or the need to defend a particular stance on right or wrong.

This book helps you make informed decisions and plan your next steps with clarity and confidence.

Here’s an overview of what each of the Six Thinking Hats represents, along with their key takeaways:

The six thinking hats, each represented by a distinct color
via DeBono

1. The white hat

Think of the white hat as your go-to for clear, unbiased information, much like a blank sheet of paper. This hat is about objectivity and focuses on facts and data rather than ideas. 

When you wear the white thinking hat, you zero in on the information at hand, both at the start of your session to set the stage and at the end to see if your proposals align with the facts. 

White hat thinking is not about debate but about laying all the information out for consideration, asking for objective facts.

2. The red hat

The red hat is where emotions come into play. Imagine the warmth of a fire. That’s what the red hat represents. It’s a space where feelings, emotions, and gut reactions are expressed freely, without justification. 

Red hat thinking brings emotions to the forefront, moving them out of the shadows of disguised logic that often occurs in business settings. 

Whether it’s a feeling of excitement or skepticism, the red hat allows these sentiments to be acknowledged at the beginning and re-evaluated at the end of a meeting. It encourages expressing genuine feelings without the pressure to rationalize them.

3. The black hat

Consider the black hat as the guardian of caution, vital for survival and critical thinking. The hat keeps us from making ill-advised, risky, or harmful decisions. 

The black hat’s role is to point out everything that doesn’t fit or could go wrong, thus saving us from wasting time and resources. It helps evaluate whether our ideas align with our experiences, resources, policies, and values, acting as a natural filter to see if expectations meet reality. 

Black hat thinking is not just about being cautious; it’s about ensuring survival through intelligent decision-making.

4. The yellow hat

The yellow hat is the embodiment of positivity. Under this hat, you’re tasked with finding the benefits and feasible ways to implement a suggestion. Yellow hat thinking is a constructive and positive approach, pushing you to seek the value and potential in ideas. 

While the black hat looks for problems, the yellow hat searches for opportunities, encouraging a mindset that values effectiveness and allows for ambitious, even speculative thinking.

5. The green hat

The green hat is synonymous with growth, new ideas, and creativity. Think of fresh, green leaves and new beginnings. 

This is the creative hat of innovation and alternative solutions. It’s where you challenge the status quo, think laterally, and explore new possibilities. 

Green hat thinking is about movement rather than judgment, encouraging the pursuit of novel ‘green hat’ ideas and improving existing ones. It’s a dynamic way of thinking that constantly seeks out fresh alternatives and solutions.

6. The blue hat

This is the meta hat: thinking about thinking. 

Blue hat thinking represents the big picture, much like the expansive blue sky. 

This hat is about organizing, managing, and controlling the thinking process. It sets the agenda, maintains discipline, and ensures a focused and orderly approach to problem-solving. 

A facilitator typically wears a blue hat but one or more team members can adopt the blue hat role. It’s responsible for summarizing and concluding the session, ensuring tangible outcomes and solutions emerge from the discussion.

The Six Thinking Hats for Decision-making

Each of these hats, with their unique focus and approach, collectively offers a comprehensive framework for tackling problems and making decisions. By cycling through these different perspectives, you and your team can ensure a well-rounded and thorough examination of an issue, leading to more balanced and effective outcomes. 

The beauty of the Six Thinking Hats method lies in its ability to harness diverse thinking styles, ensuring that every angle of a problem is explored and every voice is heard in a structured, conflict-free environment. It is organized thinking at its best.

Benefits of the Six Thinking Hats Approach to Decision-making

Teams can benefit in many ways from the Six Thinking Hats method:

Enhanced creativity: By pushing you to step away from your default approach to making decisions, it can lead to more creative thinking. Also, the coming together of various perspectives can often lead to more innovative ideas.  

Greater inclusivity: Since the Six Hats method only makes sense when everybody in the team focuses on a problem from one angle at a time, it can create a shared understanding and make teams more inclusive.

Better thinking: This approach improves the team’s ability to think critically. Also, ensuring you cover every angle of a problem ensures greater confidence in the final decision. It helps teams use all available information about a situation and practice lateral thinking. 

Improved interpersonal skills: De Bono’s approach makes team members ask questions and practice active listening. It teaches them to be persuasive and helps them resolve differences in thinking and opinions. 

Exploring project management examples can offer valuable insights into how different teams apply these principles in real-world scenarios.

Bonus Read: Second brain apps to extend your cognitive ability

When it comes to critical thinking and problem-solving, Six Thinking Hats provides a structured approach to exploring ideas and making decisions. 

The philosophy behind the Six Thinking Hats revolves around breaking down thinking into distinct perspectives, each represented by a differently colored metaphorical hat. 

Here are our favorite insightful quotes from the book:

The main difficulty of thinking is confusion, where we try to do too much at once. Emotions, information, logic, hope, and creativity all crowd in on us. It’s like juggling too many balls.

This quote from Six Thinking Hats focuses on the challenge of thinking, highlighting how complexity arises from simultaneously handling various elements—emotions, information, logic, hope, and creativity. 

It draws an analogy to juggling too many balls, emphasizing the difficulty in maintaining clarity when overwhelmed by diverse cognitive factors.

Real life, however, is very different from school sums. There is usually more than one answer. Some answers are much better than others: they cost less, are more reliable, or are more easy to implement. There is no reason at all for supposing that the first answer has to be the best one.

This quote reminds us that real-life situations are multifaceted, unlike the structured problems we solve in school where there is a single correct answer to each. Since multiple solutions can exist in real-world scenarios, we must evaluate answers based on cost, reliability, and ease of implementation.

We may have a perfectly adequate way of doing something, but that does not mean there cannot be a better way. So, we set out to find an alternative way. This is the basis of any improvement that is not fault correction or problem-solving.

This quote touches upon the concept of continuous improvement. It recognizes that even if there’s an existing, satisfactory method for accomplishing a task, there may be room for improvement. 

Pursuing alternative approaches becomes the foundation for progress and innovation beyond merely addressing faults or problem-solving.

Creativity involves provocation, exploration, and risk-taking. Creativity involves “thought experiments.” You cannot tell in advance how the experiment is going to turn out. But you want to be able to experiment.

Here, de Bono reminds us that creativity involves exploration and risk-taking. It introduces the idea of ‘thought experiments’ where the outcome is uncertain, emphasizing that true creativity requires venturing into the unknown. 

It conveys that creativity is not about predicting outcomes but embracing experimentation’s unpredictability.

Integrating the Six Thinking Hats Technique with ClickUp

ClickUp’s features such as Whiteboards and ClickUp Task Management enhance the Six Thinking Hats technique, facilitating collaboration, idea visualization, and teamwork. 

For instance, ClickUp’s collaboration detection feature mirrors Blue Hat’s role in guiding the thinking process, ensuring the team remains focused and efficient.

Whiteboards in ClickUp can serve as a collaborative space for visualizing ideas under each hat. Teams can run insight-rich discussions and brainstorming sessions by creating tasks or boards within ClickUp dedicated to each hat. 

Additionally, tracking different perspectives becomes streamlined with ClickUp’s Custom Fields, ensuring that each aspect of the decision-making process is thoroughly covered.

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Moreover, ClickUp offers more than 15 ways to visualize your tasks. For example, the Chat View can centralize all relevant discussions into a single, user-friendly platform.

ClickUp 3.0 Chat menu expanded
Bring team communication together in one space with ClickUp Chat and share updates, link resources, and collaborate effortlessly

Turn your ideas into reality with ClickUp’s Whiteboards

ClickUp 3.0 Whiteboards Collaboration
Visually collaborate with team members within ClickUp Whiteboards to brainstorm and turn ideas into actionable items

ClickUp’s Whiteboards align perfectly with the Green Hat, offering a dynamic space for brainstorming and visual ideation. It allows teams to explore creative solutions without constraints, encouraging innovation.

Whether you’re the brainstormer, the planner, the writer, or the do-er on your team, use ClickUp’s digital whiteboard tool to give life to your ideas. Starting with a clean canvas encourages creativity during brainstorming sessions, moving away from traditional text-centric or document-intensive methods.

The tool is an excellent substitute for platforms like Mural or Miro, emphasizing a visual, idea-driven brainstorming method.

Also Read: Brainstorming templates to get you started

Streamline your tasks with ClickUp’s Task Management 

ClickUp 3.0 Task view Adding Assignees
Easily delegate work by assigning tasks directly to the team or @mentioning them in a comment to turn your thoughts into action items

Task management becomes more streamlined with ClickUp’s Tasks, where tasks can be assigned to different owners for each of the different hats. This ensures that all aspects of decision-making and problem-solving are covered, mirroring the comprehensive approach advocated by the Six Thinking Hats technique.

Get creative with ClickUp’s Brainstorming Templates

Use custom fields for six view types on this brainstorming template by ClickUp

ClickUp’s customizable Brainstorming Template is a useful tool for those looking to structure their brainstorming sessions. You can tailor it to fit the Six Thinking Hats framework, providing a clear structure for creative thinking.

Encourage Creative Synergy in Your Team with Six Thinking Hats and ClickUp

We hope you found this Six Thinking Hats summary useful. The Six Thinking Hats technique is more than just a decision-making tool—it’s a pathway to unlocking the full creative potential of a team. 

Whether you’re part of a small team or a large one, understanding and applying the principles of the Six Thinking Hats, complemented by the organizational power of ClickUp, can significantly elevate your team’s ability to think critically and creatively. 

In addition, the Six Thinking Hats technique strengthens team dynamics, ensuring that each member’s unique perspective is valued and integrated into the collective decision-making process.

If you want to know more about how ClickUp can assist you, contact our team today!

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