Why Six Hats are Better Than One for Maximum Productivity

Why does it seem like some meetings are ultra-productive and some just fall flat?

A big part of the problem is that most people go into a meeting with no plan for handling the various objectives and personality types with which they’ll be working.

Familiarizing yourself with various meeting techniques and having a plan will solve many of the common issues.  We give you many of these strategies in our Ultimate Meeting Guides.

But right now, we’re going to zero in on Dr. Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.  Dr. de Bono’s theory was created for brainstorming/collaboration meetings, but it can apply to a wide range of situations.

What is the Six Thinking Hats Strategy?

Put simply, the Six Thinking Hats strategy is a way of making various meeting roles clear.  By having certain participants put on certain “hats,” you’re crystallizing what their role is and what inputs are desired from them, and thus how they can achieve success within this meeting.

The six hats are as follows:

Blue = Leadership.  The blue hat (and this hat wearer doesn’t necessarily have to be the boss) supervises and collects the meeting’s ideas.  This hat is all about process.

White = Data.  The white hats bring the data to the table.  They provide the factual and analytical points for the discussion.  For this hat, just the facts, Jack.

Red = Emotion.  Red hat wearer should consider all emotional aspects of a discussion.  No matter what the data says, how will the clients or shareholders feel about the decision?  This hat is all about gut feelings.

Green = Creativity.  Green hat participants try to be as creative as possible during the discussion.  What other ways could we look at this issue, no matter how wild or unconventional it might seem?  This hat is all about creativity.

Yellow = Sunny Disposition.  The yellow hats are to consider all the positive aspects of the potential decisions.  Yellow hats are all about the benefits.

Black = Devil’s Advocate.  Somebody has to be the assigned naysayer!  It’s critical to consider the potential downsides, so the black hat bearers consider all the possible negatives.  The black hat advises caution.

How to Use the Six Thinking Hats to Create Maximum Productivity

Maybe it seems a bit silly to have everyone “put on a hat” as they come into a meeting, but the benefits of doing so are well proven (see slide 4 of our embedded slide show), so why not try it?

Here are a few of the benefits you’ll notice in your meetings:

  • Participants will immediately understand their role for the meeting.
  • The same person trying to inspire creative ideas doesn’t have to cut off creative ideas.
  • Because the roles are clearly defined, a more comfortable environment is established.  No one will resent the fact-checkers or naysayers, for example.
  • Swapping hats either during various meetings or in the same meeting will give everyone a greater appreciation of all the aspects that must be considered for any issue.
  • The hats can be used to organize the meeting.  Imagine how much clearer a teleconference might be if the inputs were organized around the various hats, with one hat group making their case, then another group making theirs, and so on.  In this case, everyone can put on their white hat for a while to consider the facts logically while that group presents, then their yellow hat to consider the positives, black to consider the negatives, etc.

We think Dr. de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is an excellent technique.  It’s simple and clear, and also flexible enough to use in any situation.  And that’s not just our yellow hat talking.


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