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Six thinking hats

> Resolve issue

The participants, either individually or as a group, will generate ideas involving an issue by putting on a different ‘hat’ (way of thinking) every time. This will help reduce the impact that criticism and judgement as well as cultural limits and obstacles (societal, corporate, etc.) have on their ideas in addition to promoting fun and creative group expression.

Pre-requisites

Create a Board activity in round by round mode, with a voting session. Hats will be arranged in order in categories to follow a problem-solving sequence, such as:

White Hat, Red Hat, Black Hat, Yellow Hat, Green Hat, Blue Hat.

See ‘Suggestions and variations’ for more information on the sequence of hats.

Activity settings Board

  • Activity format: Round by round
  • Vote: by points or likes
  • Categories: 6 hats (according to your needs)

Process

1

Presentation

Explain the goal of the creativity session to the group as well as the method’s principle.
Go over the meaning of each hat:

Blue Hat: Organisation - taking a step back, rigour, solution to implement, the process - What are we doing?
White Hat: Neutrality and facts - the numbers, information not up for interpretation - What do we know?
Yellow Hat: Optimism - positive criticism, dreams, hopes, constructive comments - Why will it work?
Black Hat: Pessimism - negative criticism, caution, dangers, risks, objections, drawbacks - Why won’t it work?
Green Hat: Creativity - lots of ideas, no censoring, harebrained and challenging ideas - What else can we do?
Red Hat: Emotions - intuition, feelings, impressions, premonitions - What do we feel?

Express the issue and make sure everyone understands it.

As a group, participants will don the hat – hence the reason the sequence of hats must be prepared in advance. See ‘Suggestions and variations’ for other options.

2

Exploration & Discussion

Participants will work hat by hat, with about 10 minutes per hat. For each hat, the participants work in their notepad and take turns sending in their ideas, briefly presenting each idea sent.

You should encourage role-playing, so that participants can put themselves in the character’s shoes

Below is an example of a possible series of hats:

Once the issue is understood, all participants don the white hat to get a handle on the facts, the numbers and the investigations related to the problem.

Each participant has the right to give their personal opinion with the red hat, without having to justify themselves or be objective.

The group then wears the black hat to list all the risks and dangers potentially caused by the project or topic.

With the yellow hat, everyone, including those who disagree with an idea, must try to see the benefits.

The group puts on the green hat and asks themselves questions like: Is there another way to look at the problem? More ideas? Another way to approach the matter?

With the blue hat, the initial results are grouped together and then the group decides whether it’s necessary to try on one of the six hats again before taking a decision.

3

Summary

When the activity is finished, identify a leader for each action. Note the components of the action plan as actions or decisions in order to have them appear in your meeting notes and ensure follow-up.

Suggestions and variations

The sequence of hats must be determined before the workshop starts and adapted to the team, each person’s role and the goal.

  • For another way to guide problem-solving, start with the green hat to rake in possible ideas to address the issue raised. Next, each person can express what they feel while wearing the red hat (without needing to give reasons or be objective). The positive sides of the ideas put forward are mentioned with the yellow hat, and the group goes on to brainstorming to determine whether another approach is possible. Lastly, the blue hat allows a suitable action plan to be implemented.

  • To motivate the team and unify them around an idea: put on the yellow hat to list the positives. Follow with a black hat, which will list stumbling blocks and problems the team will encounter along the way. Lastly, to get around each problem identified, find solutions using a green hat!

  • To generate ideas: you can bring together people who are naturally ‘green or yellow hats’ and then start putting on other hats. Based on comments made, the next step is looking at how to swing into action.

You can add one card per hat at the head of the column to help remind participants about its meaning.

Another way is to assign one hat to each person, with everyone expressing themselves based on the hat they’re wearing. People can swap hats during the session.

Activity Board
30 to 60+ min
2 to 30
Expert
Exploration
Meditate on an issue together by embracing all ways of thinking.
Integrate emotion and scepticism into what would normally be a purely rational process and open up the possibility for creative decision-making.