Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats

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Technique for group thinking and decision making based on the principle that an issue should be explored from many different perspectives (symbolized by the hats) to be fully understood. The same technique can be used also ex-post, to assess past experiences from every point of view. The use of this technique allows necessary emotion and skepticism, as well as good expectation, to be brought into the decision making process, that otherwise would be purely rational. The Six Thinking Hats strategy also forces participants to move outside their habitual thinking style and not to feel ashamed to speak about their emotions and fears, so that they can reach a more rounded view of the situation. The various perspectives that the participants have to assume are symbolized by six hats of different colors, which represent six modes and directions of thinking. The six hats are:
Hat color Direction of thinking
White Hat Objective, neutral thinking related to facts, numbers, information.
Red Hat Emotional, includes feelings, suspicions and intuitions.
Black Hat Negative, critic, seeks for risks elements and things that could represent a problem.
Yellow Hat Positive and optimistic, seeks the good elements.
Green Hat Creative, seeks alternative.
Blue Hat Facilitator's hat, Thinking about thinking (meta-thinking). The blue thinker’s role is to control what thinking is necessary to scout the subject.
All the participants should be “wearing” the same hat at the same time and brainstorm all together the same issue. Everyone should express his/her own personal opinion from each of the six perspectives, not allowing someone to skip a point of view that they don’t usually use. [1]

Toolkit.png Conducting a Six Thinking Hats Session

Step by Step

  1. Set the room accordingly to the number of participants. Having chairs in a circle is a good solution that allows all the people to see the rest of the group.
  2. Introduce briefly the issue that will be discussed during the meeting. It's enough to say which is the issue without giving too many details since they will be discussed later on.
  3. Explain the technique of the Thinking Hats, giving details on the meaning of all the hats and stressing the importance of giving answers from every single possible perspective.
  4. Start the exercise always from the white hat and conclude with the blue one, all the hats can be used more then one time per section if considered useful.
    For every hat these are the instructions that the participants should follow:
    • White Hat: Present the facts of the case and the data available, analyzing the information you have.
    • Green Hat: Generate ideas and think of various alternatives to handle the issue.
    • Yellow Hat: Consider all the positive aspects related to the issue and eventually to the ideas generated, concentrating on the benefits they can produce.
    • Black Hat: Consider all the negative aspects related to the issue and eventually to the ideas generated and their drawbacks.
    • Red Hat: Use intuition, emotions and gut reaction and try to think about the way other people could react emotionally.
    • Blue Hat: Use this hat to take a meta-perspective and to take the control on the way the meeting develops. At the end of the session use this hat to debrief, summarize and adjourn the meeting.

Practical Tips

  • Provide one hat of each color and put it in the middle of the group during the correspondent phase of the discussion. This can avoid the confusion on which is the perspective everyone are using in each moment. There is no need to ask the participant to physically wear the hat.
  • Make sure that participants are all "wearing" the same hat at the same moment and that everyone is giving his/her opinion for every single hat. To ensure that participants are not avoiding to give an opinion on one of the various perspectives that they might not feel comfortable with, you can ask them to write down a few bullet points for each hat and physically put them inside the hat, so that they can be available during the discussion.
  • Leave some time at the beginning of every new round (new hat) for the participants to collect their ideas using the new perspective and elaborate their points of view. [2]

Job Aids

Pdf.png Conducting a Six Thinking Hats Session

Link icon.png Web Resources
Here is a link to a useful video for understanding this technique in simple terms:
Link Content
The Six Thinking Hats A video that concisely describes the roles associated with each of the six coloured hats.


  1. (21 January 2009), (21 January 2009), (21 January 2009), Tools for Knowledge and Learning, Ben Ramalingam, 2006.
  2. (21 January 2009), (21 January 2009), (21 January 2009), Tools for Knowledge and Learning, Ben Ramalingam, 2006, The Six Thinking Hats, Ingenious People Knowledge.