Social collaboration and the Six Thinking Hats

  • aug 2013
  • Charlotte
  • 2497
  • 1

I came across an interesting article about Edward de Bono who introduced the concept of lateral thinking. Lateral thinking, as defined on Wikipedia ;-), is solving problems through an indirect and creative approach using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and it involves ideas that may not be obtainable by using only traditional step-by-step logic.

A technique tied to lateral thinking is the six thinking hats-method. Each of the hats represents specific point of view and a color:

  • The White hat | Covers facts, figures, information needs and gaps. What are the facts? Which information is available?
  • The Red hat | This covers intuition, feelings and emotions. "The red hat gives full permission to a thinker to put forward his or her feelings on the subject at the moment."
  • The Black hat | This covers caution and judgement, or playing the devils advocate. With this hat on you are using logic to identify the bumps, errors and negative points.
  • The Yellow hat | This covers the positive point of view, by using logic to identify the benefits and valuable parts.
  • The Green hat | This covers creativity, alternative routes, provocations, changes and proposals.
  • The Blue hat | This thinking covers the overview or process control hat. It does not look at the subject itself but at the 'thinking' about the subject. "Putting on my blue hat, I feel we should do some more green hat thinking at this point." In technical terms, the blue hat is concerned with meta-cognition.” (For the source and more information go here).

The six thinking hats-method is often used in group discussions to approach certain problems from multiple perspectives. By, figuratively speaking, putting on one of the hats an individual can approach the problem from that particular perspective. This allows people to 'take the ego out of thinking and allow a more objective and comprehensive consideration of the issue', and in this sense groups can come to richer output as they combine multiple perspectives and might feel less restricted to speak their hats' thoughts.

As this method is mostly practiced during face-to-face 'physical' meetings, it becomes expensive, time consuming and hard to organize, and therefore I argue it might very well be facilitated in an online social collaboration environment. By starting a conversation in which you pose a question or argument, you can ask your respondents to answer according to the different perspectives of the six thinking hats. Just don't forget to ask them to reveal the thinking hat they are wearing when responding to your post!