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Six thinking hats

Paying homage to the late, great Edward de Bono - by talking about his hats.

Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash


Edward de Bono was the originator of the term 'lateral thinking' and an author of over 60 books. He passed away last week at the age of 88.


Many of you will have heard of 'lateral thinking'. Widely used in creative circles and the business world, it's the process of looking at problems indirectly via non-obvious or non-traditional logic. It can be said that the opposite of lateral is literal - so to think laterally is to not think about something as you commonly would.


A sidestep from the norm if you will.


Much of what we try to do at Faster Ideas has lateral thinking at its heart. So today we want to take a look at Edward de Bono's hats. Not his prized collection of fedoras*, but instead his 'Six Thinking Hats'.


That's the name of his book, published in 1985, which looks at how ideas, problems and challenges can be looked at from different perspectives, using a series of six colour-coded, metaphorical hats.


According to de Bono, 'wearing' each of these hats - and assuming the role each one represents - can give you the best chance of covering all angles when you're thinking through a particular issue.


Each of the thinking hats represents a different style of thinking.


The White hat allows you to focus on known information and data. You only see what you already know about the issue.


The Yellow hat gives you all the positives of the idea, the benefits and the value. This is the optimistic perspective.


Black hat thinking allows you to focus on the negatives - the risks and the challenges you might foresee. What's an idea's Achilles heel? What are the weaknesses?

The Red hat means looking at how you feel about the problem. What does your gut tell you? What emotions does it provoke in you or others?


The Green hat allows you to look at things from a purely creative perspective. What playful thoughts can you throw at the existing idea?


Now for the process-control hat: The Blue hat. This is where you decide how to manage and monitor how all the hats (including yours) are being used/worn.


All this hat-wearing can be done solo or as part of a team process. Playing by the rules of each hat is a way to eliminate any biases you might bring to the party. It ensures that focus is given to the different aspects of an issue, covering all perspectives and (hopefully) adding up to a thorough examination of the matter at hand.


As I said, the hats are metaphorical - but there's no reason why you can't go out and invest in a series of colourful hats to bring things to life. A bit of playfulness goes a long way in creative thinking. Some coloured 10-gallon hats might help brighten up yet another dull Zoom call.


If you want to delve into some more Edward de Bono, we've created a selection of titles about the great man in our Bookstore shop below.


*I've no idea if he collected fedoras by the way.


To see the full list, and to delve into our other booklists, check out our shelves on uk.bookshop.org/shop

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