Old hat. But still amazing to wear.
Edward de Bono, inventor of the term ‘Lateral Thinking’ and widely acknowledged as the world’s leading expert on thinking, wrote a book called Six Thinking Hats in 1985.
My explanation of Six Hats may not be the most accurate but it is the one I usually use when trying to explain the principle.
When we are thinking about an issue, even if we believe that we are being clear-headed and objective, we approach the subject in a very mixed up way.
For example, if we are asked for our opinion about a controversial topic, we cannot help but — automatically — colour our judgement by in-built prejudice or bias.
All the various strands of our thought processes overlap and merge.
This is not helpful and can lead to us making a decision that we later regret.
Six Hats thinking is a deliberate attempt to force the brain to think in unnatural ways.
Edward de Bono refers to this as ‘parallel thinking’. In other words, thinking in one, distinct way at a time.
He identified six, specific directions in which the brain can be challenged.
To help give each direction an identity, de Bono encourages us to imagine wearing a metaphorical hat of a certain colour.
Six Hats is primarily a group thinking process, with a trained facilitator (like me) running the show. But it’s such a simple, easy to remember technique that it is handy to use ‘solo’.
The results are truly amazing. But they have to be experienced to be believed.
There are numerous examples of how Six Hats has been used by major corporations and by well-known clients of Dr de Bono but, sadly, the technique never achieved mass market appeal.
In the early 2000s it was adopted in some parts of the British civil service and it has a loyal following in the education sector (notably in Australia) but Six Hats is still new to most people.
And it’s as good for our thinking today as it’s always been.