Post #5: Parallel Thinking – The Six Hats

Parallel Thinking- the Six  Hats

Socrates, Plato and Aristotle designed the art of argument. De Bono states, “Each side makes a ‘case’ and then seeks to defend that case and prove the other ‘case’ to be wrong” (p. 89). The motivation to be right is high but the actual content not so much. De Bono states, “We use argument not because we think it is such a wonderful method-but because we do not know any other method” (p. 89).

De Bono devised a different way of thinking, called the “Six Hats.” He uses different colours to describe the different ways of thinking about a situation. It is important that every member uses the same hat in the same conversation- parallel thinking. Therefore, you need to be able to identify the different hats.

White hat: White means information. Hard facts are facts that we can check. Soft information covers information such as rumours or personal facts. During a white hat conversations, all information is laid out on the table.

What do we know?

What do we need to know?

What is missing?

What questions should we ask?

How might we get the information we need?

Red hat: Red information includes emotions, feelings and intuition. You do not have to give any reasons to back up why you feel this way. Intuition is helpful when there is no other way to check the information.

I do not like this idea at all.

My feeling is that this simply will not work.

My intuition is that raising the price will destroy the market.

My gut feeling is that this is highly dangerous.

I feel it is a waste of time.

My intuition is that she is a bright person for the job.

Black hat: This hat includes critical thinking and judging information. It helps us to act properly and safely.

Does this fit our values?

Does this fit our resources?

Does this fit our strategy and objectives?

Does this fit our abilities?

The black hat thinking can:

Indicate a fault in logic

Point out incorrect information

Point out faults and weaknesses

Point out why something does not fit

Point out the “downside”

Point out potential problems.

Yellow hat: This hat looks for values, benefits and why something should work. The yellow hat leads to insights and everyone makes an effort to find value.

Green hat: This hat is productive because it “asks for ideas, alternatives, possibilities and designs” (de Bono, p. 99). This hat helps with creativity.

Blue hat: This hat helps organize other hats. First, it defines the focus and purpose of a conversation. Second, it sets up a sequence of hats for the conversation.

For the benefits of using hats read page 104 and for an excellent summary read pages 105-106.


Record a short section of conversation between you and your mentor. Transcribe the conversation. Identify the different hats in the conversation.


Post #4: Keep it going

In-depth post #4 (week six and seven)

A good listener respects the speaker, pays attention, is genuinely interested, and values what is heard. At the beginning of your in-depth project, you probably spend more time listening than speaking with your mentor. Make sure you are patient and do not interrupt the speaker. De Bono states, “If you listen carefully and attentively you will get more value from listening than talking” (p. 67). Listening gives you new ideas, new information, new facts, new insights and new discoveries. When listening, take notice of the vocabulary being used, repeat or paraphrase part of the conversation, ask questions (more about this later), or ask for more details. According to de Bono, there are two foci: what is the speaker trying to tell you and what are you hearing and is it relevant to what the speaker is trying to say? For example, listen to the argument as well as the content of the argument.

Try to address some of the following possibilities during your next visit with your mentor:

  • #4 What new information are you getting and what questions did you ask to probe further into the topic?
  • #5 Discuss any new points of view you developed while in conversation with your mentor.
  • #6 What were some of the alternative perceptions that are new to you.
  • #9 How do your mentor values differ from yours?
  • #12 What questions did you ask to check on facts and details? Elaborate.

In addition to how to listen, it is also important to ask questions to generate interaction. De Bono states, “A question is simply a way of directing attention” (p. 81).  Are you able to distinguish between shooting and fishing questions? Which type do you tend to use most of the time? Why? Questions allow you, for example, to check on the source and the validity of the information being shared, ask for more details, ask for an explanation, offer alternatives and possibilities, modify the proposition form the speaker, state multiple choice options and clarify values. Asking about the basis of someone’s thinking, someone’s feelings, someone’s decisions, or someone’s proposal will clarify the conversation.

Try the following during the next session with your mentor:

  • #1 Ask questions. Record them. Why did you ask these questions?
  • #8 Ask for an explanation for a certain skill you are learning. Discuss what happened.
  • #11 Ask a multiple choice question. Was this useful? Explain.
  • #12 Ask the speaker to clarify his or her underlying values for doing, thinking and feeling the way they do.

Keep the interest level high.

Quirien Mulder ten Kate