Get Your Thinking Hats On

Next week I’m greatly privileged to hold a day helping a CofE Diocese assess where they are, and plan forward to where they’re going. I don’t know these people. I’m not going as an expert with a master plan. I’m facilitating them to implement own learning way more than imparting my own knowledge. I will start by hopefully inspiring them and tell them a few things I have learned the hard way in leadership, but I can’t assume much of anything as it’s literally a broad church. I find this very exciting!

One thing I know for sure that I will do with them is a practice I have found very useful myself. I have used this in various settings that I’ve consulted for and found it enormously helps individuals think better in groups, and groups think like a team (Big difference! A group of people waiting for a bus is not a team).

The tool is Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats and to help me have a ready reference for this and to refresh my memory on it I’ve reread this brilliant book and I’m going to briefly summarise it here.


How often when we are talking with others do egos get in the way because we are trying to prove or disprove a point? Someone sees it one way, someone else another way, and someone else can’t see it at all! The Six Thinking Hats Method helps everyone – no matter what your usual thinking on an issue is – to think in the same direction (notice; not thinking the same way, in fact this process allows a free flow of thinking without putting the brakes on so much).

When we all put our ‘thinking hats’ on, everyone figuratively wears one ‘hat’ at a time. So we all see the problem, opportunity, issue, from the same point of view and come at it from the same angle, then we stop, and all come at it from a different angle for a while, and so on.

The hats correspond to the different ways of thinking. You know how some people are always glass half full, others glass half empty, and others never buy a round? This method lets everyone think of it the way they naturally do, and come at it from a different point of view too. Nobody has to make a case or defend. Egos don’t come into it. Everyone can contribute and benefit equally by bringing their own experience and intelligence in an undefended way.

We don’t attempt to do various types of thinking all at the same time, where someone brings an information item about a possible change then someone else chips in with what’s wrong with what we were doing as someone else expresses how hurt some people are or might be by it. Rather we think in sequence, to solve a problem or explore an opportunity or subject. It’s like a game you play and here are the ‘rules.’

De Bono describes the hats as follows: (they group well into pairs in this order too). For x minutes we all think….

White Hat: is neutral and objective. What information do we have, and what information are we missing? No interpretation, opinion or argument, thanks. We are simply concerned with objective facts and figures. What’s what?

next we spend x amount of time where we all wear the…
Red Hat: Red suggests anger (seeing red), rage, emotions. The emotional view. Intu