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Six Thinking Hats [Design Thinking]

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Jan 31, 2023 1:43:28 PM
Six Thinking Hats

According to Edward de Bono, confusion is a difficulty associated with thinking; this occurs because we try to do too much simultaneously. Bono also argues that "thinking is the maximum resource of the human being." The problem arises when we do not know how to focus it; from this concept emerges the six thinking hats, an idea that allows the thinker to do one thing at a time.

In the innovation and improvement methodology called Design Thinking, a stage of the process is dedicated to thinking; that space to devise possible solutions can be overwhelming and create pressure because, as Bono says, we try to do too much simultaneously.

In this blog, I explain the six thinking hats and how to use the concept to drive our thinking to better solutions in Design Thinking.


black hat design thinking

Six thinking hats

Edward de Bono, a Maltese psychologist, created the six hats technique as a resource to boost innovative thinking, facilitating analysis and problem-solving.

The idea is to play a defined role, analyzing a situation from a specific perspective (not thinking about many things at once); a group of people is brought together, and six hats of different colors are used, as follows:

  • White hat: neutral and objective point of view, focusing only on facts and figures.
  • Red hat: when some people get angry, they usually say they "see red," so this hat takes the emotional point of view.
  • Black hat: negative point of view, focusing on challenges, objections, and what could go wrong.
  • Yellow hat: positive point of view with optimistic ideas.
  • Green hat: like abundant and growing nature, this hat focuses on the creative and innovative point of view.
  • Blue hat: deals with the control and organization of the activity.

yellow hat design thinking

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is an innovation methodology to solve complex problems creatively, making the multidisciplinary team in charge follow an iterative and non-linear process.

Although it is allowed to move forward or backward at any point in the process, as new doubts or findings arise, there is a step-by-step methodology consisting of five stages:

  • Empathy: the research stage, where data is collected and analyzed from the target group to understand their context, needs, and expectations

<<Designing with empathy>>

  • Definition: based on previously collected data, the problem to be solved is defined.
  • Ideation: creative stage, where the greatest number of possible solutions emerge.
  • Prototyping: creating physical and/or digital prototypes of the best-qualified ideas.
  • Testing: stage to test the prototypes to receive feedback and identify opportunities for improvement.

design thinking process

All stages are important and have their reason for being. However, in this blog, we will focus on ideation.

Applying Bono's six hats

Ideation requires divergent thinking because it is time to put on the creative hat and think of as many ideas as possible. However, this task can become complex, s it is advisable to use the six hats to simplify the exercise.

  1. The first thing to do is to clearly define the problem (what we have to solve).
  2. Select who will wear the blue hat; this person will be in charge of organizing the dynamic and assigning the hats to the team. There are no rules for the assignment, each person can have a different color, or everyone can wear the same hat to think from the same point of view. Moreover, the hats can be changed during the session.

Regardless of the assignment, the dynamic consists of expressing opinions and ideas according to the hat, allowing you to say: "take off the black hat and put on the yellow one" to someone who is being very negative or "let's all put on the white hat" to think in a neutral and objective way.

With the six thinking hats, people can focus on one point of view to solve the problem rather than trying to be emotional, logical, positive, pessimistic, and creative all at once.

<<Design Thinking Tools>>

If you want to solve a complex problem within your company, at Imagineer, we put on our blue hat and help guide you through the ideation process.

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