Process - Top Tips - The six thinking hats

The six thinking hats

This document is designed as a quick reference guide to six thinking hats.

This will enable you to gain knowledge of a particular skill, task or process.

This means you can quickly find the key information that you need and refer to it on an ongoing basis whenever you need to refresh your knowledge.



Six thinking hats is a technique that helps you look at decision making and problem solving from a number of perspectives represented by the six hats.


Using this technique enables you to make better decisions by forcing you to think differently, this can lead to you identifying issues and opportunities which you may otherwise have missed.

Process - Top Tips - The six thinking hats

The six thinking hats

What you need to know…

You can use the six thinking hats technique in meetings or on your own. In meetings it can help avoid confrontations that happen when individuals with different thinking styles discuss the same problem.

Each thinking hat represents a different style of thinking. When making a decision you should ‘wear’ each of these imaginary hats to consider all possibilities. The thinking styles represented by each hat are as follows:


White Hat – Neutral and objective. Focus on facts and figures, using all available data to see what can be learned from it. Identify gaps in data and either fill or take account of them. When wearing this hat you will also analyse past trends and extrapolate from historical data.


Red Hat – When wearing this hat you look at problems using hunches and intuition, gut reactions and emotions. Consider how other people might react emotionally and try to understand the responses from others when they do not fully understand your reasoning behind a decision.


Yellow Hat – This hat helps you think positively. You take an optimistic viewpoint when wearing this hat and are able to see all the benefits of a decision and the value in it. This style of thinking helps keep you going when the situation appears challenging.


Black Hat – looks at all the bad points of the decision and identify reasons why it might not work. This enables you to highlight any weak points that exist in a plan and either tackle them in advance or put a contingency plan in place.

Black hat thinking often results in tougher, more resilient plans and ensures you are prepared for potential difficulties.


Green Hat – this is the creative hat which encourages innovation and thinking outside the box. Green hat thinking can result in new ideas and concepts in an environment where there is little criticism of the ideas.


Blue Hat – thinks about process control. This hat is worn by the facilitator in meetings and when wearing this hat they may direct the group to into the various thinking styles e.g. if the group are running out of ideas the facilitator may direct the conversation into green hat thinking and so on.


Using six thinking hats in meetings

When using this technique in meetings the discussion would be facilitated by a person adopting blue hat thinking in order to keep things under control. As group the individuals in the meeting would adopt each mode of thinking in turn, e.g. the meeting may start with everyone wearing green hats and during this time they would contribute creative and innovative thoughts. Once the group have exhausted all the ideas they have in this style of thinking they would then move onto a different colour hat and repeat the process.

Having applied each style of thinking it should be easier for the group to make a decision having looked at it from all different angles and generated lots of options.


This technique could be applied when running review meetings, either in isolation or as part of a PSTB to generate a wide range of solutions.


Process - Top Tips - The six thinking hats

The six thinking hats

Using six thinking hats in one to ones

When having a one to one conversation you can ‘wear’ the blue hat to facilitate the conversation successfully and encourage the individual you are talking to, to use each of the thinking styles by asking questions. E.g. if an individual is persistently negative or emotional you could encourage white hat thinking by asking about the facts and figures relating to the situation or yellow hat thinking to encourage the individual to consider the best case scenario and what it would look like if everything went well. It’s possible to do this even if the other person doesn’t understand the six thinking hats technique as all they need to do is respond to each of the questions you ask.


Using six thinking hats on your own

You can use the six thinking hats on your own by ‘wearing’ each of the hats in turn yourself and making a note of your thoughts and ideas when wearing each one. When doing this it might be useful to use a table such as the example given on the following page.

Having completed the table you have wide range of ideas in relation to the decision and should be able to identify the best course of action from this.