Activity: Six Hats for Parallel Thinking

Try this group thinking exercise to examine differing points of view on an issue through trying on “different thinking caps” together.

DIY_Hdr

What are the Six Thinking Hats?

Developed by Edward de Bono, Six Hats is a method that provides direction for group thinking and decision-making by building off the common notion of “putting on your thinking cap.” de Bono has developed six different “hats” that each focus on thinking in one particular direction (feelings, judgment, creativity, process, optimism, and facts).

By having the entire group try each hat in turn, the method enables participants to examine differing points of view on an issue in parallel. The whole group shares the responsibility of all wearing the “devil’s advocate” hat for a specific period of time, the “pie in the sky” hat for a specific period of time, and other kinds of hats as the conversation evolves.

To read more about this activity in action, check out this post about the EmcArts staff Munch Club that focused on the Six Thinking Hats.

Activity Objective

To improve group discussion and decision-making by getting your group thinking in parallel with one another and sharing the same framing lens, as an alternative to a discussion based on quick feedback and opposition.

Worksheet

Download the activity description and Six Hats description worksheet as a PDF here. Download: Six Thinking Hats

Participants

Can be done with any size group.

Duration

Approximately 45 minutes.

Facilitator

A facilitator is recommended to lead the exercise and keep time.

Activity

Step 1: With the group, the facilitator identifies a topic for discussion.

Step 2: The facilitator passes out a worksheet with descriptions of the Six Hats to each group member.

Step 3: With the group, the facilitator determines an order to use the hats. de Bono recommends that you pair complementary hats, such as White/Red, Yellow/Black, Green/Blue, and that you determine the full order of the hats you’ll “try on” before you start your discussion. It’s often useful to begin and end with Blue. Hats can be repeated.

Step 4: With the group, the facilitator determines a time limit for each hat. Times can vary from 2 minutes to 10 minutes or longer per hat. The Red Hat (feelings) is typically shorter because it’s about gut response. The Green Hat (creativity) might be longer because it about possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas.

Step 5: The facilitator then leads the group through each hat, reminding the group of each hat’s focus and keeping time. The facilitator may need to remind participants to contain their responses to the parameters of the hat.

Reflection

  • How was the discussion you had using the Six Hats different from your typical discussions?
  • How might it help you discuss difficult topics or make decisions?

Sharing

In the comments section, we encourage you to share something that you learned or something that surprised you.

About
Karina Mangu-Ward is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.