Why & When it is used

This tool is best used in order to tackle a problem from as many angles as possible. It makes room for creativity and innovation which are crucial aspects of MSMEs.

The six thinking hats is a tool to boost the productivity of creative thinking by dividing up the different styles of thinking into six "hats": logic, emotion, caution, optimism, creativity, and control. People use different thinking styles throughout the innovation process. They are usually used for different situations, but it is particularly important in innovation to use all six of these thinking styles.

Blue

People who typically wear the blue hat are organized and controlled. Individuals with this thinking style organize thoughts and actions, and layout and control objectives, purposes, and processes. They usually ask questions such as:

  • What is the problem we are trying to solve? 
  • What solutions are available to solve that problem?
  • What is the most effective way to solve the problem?
  • What are the benefits and drawbacks of each solution?
  • What process shall we follow to reach the required outcome?

Green

People who typically wear the green hat are creative, super positive, and put forward innovative ideas, options and alternatives, as well as modify and improve existing ones. They ask questions such as:

  • What are we missing? 
  • Is there a way to make our product quicker?
  • What are our competitors doing and how can we do things better?
  • What risks can we take to make this happen?
  • How can we use that solution to come up with more insights?

Yellow

People who typically wear the yellow hat are optimistic and positive. They focus on capturing opportunity, seeking out value, and providing reasons to take chances. They ask questions such as:

  • What are the ways in which this solution can improve our competitive advantage?
  • What are all the positive outcomes that can come from this solution?
  • What are the reasons why we should move forward with this solution?

Black

People who typically wear the black hat are cautious and critical. They focus on detecting risks and faults and providing reasons for caution. They ask questions such as:

  • What are the risks and what can go wrong during implementation?
  • Why this solution might not work?
  • How can we measure and mitigate the things that could go wrong?
  • What are the reasons why we should not move forward with this solution?

White

People who typically wear the white hat are analytical. They focus on the information and required facts and how to obtain them. They usually ask questions such as:

  • What are the performance metrics of the current product? 
  • How can we improve those metrics?
  • What improvement percentage will this solution provide compared to other solutions?
  • What information is available?
  • What information is missing and where can we find it?

Red

People who typically wear the red hat are emotional and intuitive. They are expressive of their feelings, emotions, and intuition. They ask questions such as:

  • What does my gut tell me about this solution?
  • What kind of emotions does it bring out?
  • What things do I feel can go right or wrong?

 

How to use the 6 Thinking Hats?

This tool can be performed individually or with the help of a group of people. It is preferred to have assistance from 6 individuals, each wearing one of the 6 hats mentioned above.

Afterward, follow these steps:

Step 1: Identify

Before you start problem-solving, you need to identify the problem and set a goal for what needs to be solved. Initially, the blue and white hats should perform this task because they work best with identifying problems and setting goals.

Step 2: Diverge

Once the goals have been identified, the next step is to diverge. Re-frame the problem and generate ideas. One person will never have all of the possible solutions to answer the problem. Therefore, everyone should be encouraged to put forward new ideas, options, and alternatives from their point of view. Explore all possible solutions but avoid being critical about any idea during this stage, no matter how impossible an idea may seem. When diverging, wear the blue, green, yellow, and red hats to collect as many ideas as possible, regardless of feasibility. 

Step 3: Merge

After diverging, the next step is to connect the dots. Organize and combine ideas and idea fragments in new ways. Group similar ideas to make them more complete and robust. When merging, the blue, green, and yellow hats are appropriate.

Step 4: Converge

Once you have connected ideas, the next step is to converge. Prioritize which idea you want to develop further, and refine it. Being analytical, critical, and cautious will be helpful during this stage. Note that in the convergence stage, you and your team should not be collecting new ideas anymore, but instead should be making a decision.

When converging, wearing the blue, black, white, and red hats is key because this is the time to prioritize and make decisions, not to generate more ideas.

Step 5: Emerge

The last step is to emerge. Set the action plan on how to take the prioritized idea forward.

Finally, during the emergence stage; the blue, black, and white hats are appropriate because you are setting up the action plan.

 

Case Study

Karim is the head of a project team at a small enterprise, they were tasked to find a solution that the company has been facing for a while now; waste disposal management. 

As this is a production company, the question of how their waste should be handled is often a major one.

First, Karim and his team needed to identify the problem. For that, they put on their white and blue thinking hats, as they needed both to tackle the problem from multiple angles and be organized, respectively.

After having properly identified the problem, Karim’s team now needs to come up with various possible solutions. They can do so by allowing everyone in the team to put on their blue hat for analysis, yellow hat for positivity, green hat for creativity, and red hat for emotional thinking.

After having listed potential solutions, the team now needs to merge similar solutions for a more organized output. They do so using blue, green, and yellow hats.

Now that potential solutions are listed and organized, Karim’s team now needs to decide on which ideas to proceed with. They do so by wearing their black hat for critical thinking, white hat for analysis, as well as the blue and red hats.

Lastly, the team needs to set up an action plan to be followed for the idea they chose previously. They do so by wearing their blue, black, and white hats.

Hints

Always be clear as to which thinking styles are appropriate in each stage of this process and encourage debate between thinking hats in case of group assistance. Make sure you know which hats you are comfortable wearing, so you know when you may need to change your behavior

Click the attachment below to download the six thinking hats template.

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