Edward de Bono does not suffer from a small ego. The first sentence of the preface to his book is: "The Six Thinking Hats method may well be the most important change in human thinking for the past twenty-three hundred years." Digest this and two more pages of obnoxious self-advertisement that follows. Then put the book down. After an hour continue to read the rest of the book. It is worth while. Essentially, "Six Thinking Hats" is about improving communication and decision-making in groups. De Bono's style is accessible, succinct, well-structured and easy to follow. It is not with a certain justification that he claims that "his work is in use equally in board-rooms of some of the world's largest corporations and with four-year-olds in school." Well, where is the difference, anyway? What de Bono wants to achieve is to structure thinking and make it more effective. "Thinking often proceeds as drift and waffle and reaction to what turns up from moment to moment. [...] Suggestions, judgements, criticism, information and plain emotions are all mixed together in a sort of thinking stew," he writes. The six "thinking hats" are different ways of looking at an issue that has to be decided: under the white hat one presents the facts, under the red hat one says how one feels about the issue, under the black hat one looks at the negative effects of the decision, under the yellow hat one looks at the positive effects of the decision, under the green hat one thinks of alternatives, and under the blue hat one clarifies which kind of thinking is going on. Overall, thinking becomes clearer when the different parts that go into it are brought into the open. The idea of the "hat" has the advantage that it allows people to play with a new perspective. People who argue by criticism, for example, can remain mostly critical. But by putting on the red hat they can voice their emotions, or by putting on the yellow hat they can think about positive effects. Western thinking tends strongly to focus on "black hat thinking," says de Bono: "At a Western-style meeting the participants sit there with their points of view and in many cases the conclusion they wish to see agreed upon. The meeting then consists of arguing through these different points of view to see which survives the criticism and which attracts the most adherents." De Bono wants to get away from this judgmental, confrontational style towards a more open, positive, creative and playful way of discussing. De Bono's model tries to make discussions more rational. It acknowledges the importance of emotions in decision-making, and tries to separate them from the facts and from the positive or negative implications of the decision: "once the emotions are made visible, then a thinker is more free of them". But making the discussion more transparent and structured is not enough. De Bono's model needs a "facilitator", a person who puts a "blue hat" on, someone who organizes the discussion and leads it. In the world of business, discussions are very often about power. The "six thinking hats" model requires a very enlightened, open-minded "powerful" person to work, or very assertive, courageous "less powerful" persons. What are the problems with power? A person in power can abuse his "blue hat" position, for example. Or the culture of the company can be built on "black hat" critical thinking, where "yellow hat" positive thinkers tend to become scapegoats when things go wrong. "Red hat" revelations of the emotions behind one's point of view or "green hat" creative ideas are not forthcoming when power games are being played. People in power can abuse any of the six thinking hats. Here the book could profit from some ideas about how to deal with the abuse of power in communication. But having said that, I want to stress that it was stimulating to read this book, and I found it very interesting to analyse my own thinking under the "hat" categories of de Bono.
Have you ever attended a meeting to resolve an issue and found some of the participants causing havoc simply because they don't share yours and your colleagues point of view? You know, some people always argue and their quite good at it too, so why not let the same people argue your case? With the six thinking hats you can do just that. By putting on a different hat you are obliged to argue the case in question colored by that hat. So the only person who is allowed to be negative has the black hat. The person who wears the yellow hat speaks truly on the behalf of the case. The one with the white hat simply states facts and share objective information. If you feel strongly about something, put on the red hat and say it. When you wear the green hat your role is to generate ideas. And finally blue is the leader handling the hat swapping and the process of reaching a solution. It is absurdly strange what a colored hat can do to change a person's mind. You won't believe how a negative person will open up when he is put to challenge his own thoughts! And it is in fact a relief having a red hat, because then you h-a-v-e to say what you feel about the issue, an often needed thing to do to clear the air. And the result are evident: You get to know each other a lot better, solving issues faster and thus getting better solutions. It is of course an advantage that you do this with a group of people which is open-minded and is willing to do such "stupid" thing as wearing hats during a meeting. A bit of preparation and practice is recommended. Enjoy and get better results faster!
Futurlogics was published 1983 and "Six Thinking Hats" was published 1985. The US author has six modes of thinking and used the color coding concept using the prizm, rainbow, and the kaleidoscope. Although Doctor de Bono alludes to the future he does not see the import it has to the thinking process. The six hats are compared in FUTURLOGICS as follows: White Hat is similar to the Natural Future or mode, Red Hat is similar to the Artificial Future or mode, Black Hat is similar to the Absolute Future or mode, Yellow Hat is similar to the Imaginary Future or mode, The Green Hat is similar to the Synthetic Future or the Creative Mode, The Blue Hat is similar to the Paridigm Future or model mode. Six Hats is great start into the thinking methods but does not reach out like Futurlogics.