Six Thinking Hats

Pioneered by Edward de Bono, Six Thinking Hats is a facilitative technique that allows individuals to “step-outside” of themselves and engage in the thinking of a particular issue through a different mind-frame.  As such it allows facilitators to avoid or overcome group –think mentality during a systemic design workshop.

When to use it?

Frame: Six Thinking Hats can be used during framing as a way to tease out legacy or current ways of thinking.

Generate: Six thinking hats can be used to draw out user perspectives regarding the plausibility or feasibility about using a particular prototype.

How to do it?

  • Ask participants to metaphorically “wear” one of six thinking hats which ask participants to apply the following styles of thinking:

Blue Hat: thinking considers the process and the use of the other hats.
White Hat: thinking considers information requirements (facts and figures) without judgment
Green Hat: thinking calls for creativity in ideas, concepts, and approaches.  It focuses on creative thinking.
Black Hat: thinking considers negative implications—what is wrong, incorrect, or why will a particular solution not work.
Yellow Hat: thinking considers positive implications—what is good, useful, or correct.
Red Hat: thinking considers emotions, feelings, and impressions without judgment.

Make sure to conclude by using the blue hat as means for summarizing the main insights that were surfaced through the use of the other thinking styles.

Six thinking hats is a flexible tool that can be applied any time “group-think” appears to be emerging within a group, and diversity in thought is required.  Can be used with groups between 2-30 participants.

10-30 minutes

Pros and cons

  • Allows participants to share  without risk;
  • Generates understanding that there are multiple perspectives on an issue;
  • Can improve communication and decision-making


  • Depending on the thinking generated, further work may be needed to synthesize the diverse perspectives and/or address particular tensions between world-views that may be present.

Utilization of the six –hats method should be timed when a change in thinking is needed to move a group forward.  This requires a facilitator to exercise a degree of sound judgment as to when this period is.



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​Additional Resources

Six Thinking Hats Video