Book Review: Six Thinking Hats


Georges Lteif

Georges Lteif

Software Engineer

Last Updated on August 22, 2022.
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5 min read


Who Should Read This Book

The Six Thinking Hats is an authoritative framework designed to help organizations and teams overcome some of the inherited cognitive and cultural mindsets that prevent us from refining our decision-making capabilities. In that sense, it is an essential tool for decision-makers, especially when the stakes are high.


Synopsis

In addition to his publications on lateral thinking, critical thinking, and creativity, the Six Thinking Hats, first published in 1985, is probably one of the best-known frameworks among Eduard de Bono‘s vast portfolio of new ideas.

In this relatively short book, de Bono presents his new thinking framework and describes its premises, which we summarise as follows:

  • As per de Bono, the main obstacle to better thinking is confusion. The latter directly results from our minds trying to integrate emotions, rationality, and factual knowledge simultaneously in their decision-making processes.
  • The Western argumentative approach to problem-solving, inherited from the Greek philosophers 2300 years ago, is seriously outdated. It is confrontational, personal, egocentric, and non-constructive; its objective is to argue the correctness or otherwise of an idea put forward by our peers.

The Six Thinking Hats framework addresses these two problems as follows:

  • First, it forces people to adopt one “direction” of thought at any time. A “Blue Hat” chairman directs the process to ensure everyone plays by the rules.
  • Second, through lateral thinking, participants can create new and constructive ideas providing a rich set of solutions in record time.

Why six coloured hats?

The hats are symbolic objects that we can quickly put on and off. The colours allow us to remember and visualise the purpose of each hat.

Although the hats can be used in any sequence, de Bono proposes to use them in such a way that:

  • First, we get all the facts from the White Hat. De Bono recommends we start with factual knowledge and evidence-based information rather than putting forward an argument to be supported later by facts that we choose to present in a way that bolsters our argument.
  • Second, we express our feelings about an idea using the Red Hat. We generally assume that emotions can only get in the way of rational discussions, so we try to avoid them in meetings. Still, they return to our arguments “disguised as logic”. The Red Het is our opportunity to voice our feelings without a disguise.
  • Third, we use the Black Hat to identify faults, issues, or obstructions. The Black Hat is mainly to limit our tendencies to be cautious all the time, as cautiousness and pessimism is the preferred mode in which our brains like to function.
  • Fourth, a Yellow Hat will help us list the idea’s merits. The author points out that seeing danger instead of value is a natural tendency that helps us avoid getting into trouble. Identifying value requires conscious effort, a habit that needs to be cultivated.
  • Fifth, a Green Hat ensures we focus our creative faculties on coming up with an array of different solutions. The author has published another book on creativity with many “games” that one can play to generate novel ideas. It works surprisingly well and must be taught and shared.
  • Sixth, we use the Red Hat again to sum up our feelings. Why? The author maintains that an idea that doesn’t attract enthusiasm will not gather momentum, regardless of its ingenuity. Using the Red Hat at this stage allows the chairman of the meeting to guage the participants’ feelings after all effort has been made to debate it.

And the Blue Hat? The Blue Hat organises the discussion and governs the process by allocating timeframes, determining the sequence of hats to use, and ensuring compliance.


Key Metrics

Original Content
95%
Practical Usage
85%
Depth
25%
Authority
95%
Writing Style
80%
Accessibility
95%

Quick Review

Highly Recommended

Format

The book is nicely broken down into small chapters with an introduction and about six chapters for each hat—a summary of the main ideas at the beginning and end of a specific hat’s discussion, with four to five chapters discussing one aspect or doubt on the usage of the hat in question.

Style

Eduard de Bono’s style is uncomplicated, succinct, and targeted to the general audience. There is no tricky terminology, and prior knowledge of the subject, although recommended, is not strictly required to understand the framework and how to use it.

Content

The content is highly original and thought-provoking with its simplicity and ingenuity. The book lacks in-depth analysis, however, and is a shade disappointing for those of us who do not like to leave the fountain thirsty.


Format

Edition Details

PAPERBACK

ISBN-13: 9 780141 037554
18 x 11.2 x 1 cm
177 pages


Themes


Content

Structure

The book is divided into (very) small chapters. An introduction to the Six Thinking Hats provides anecdotal evidence of the significant improvements that method has brought to several well-known large organizations worldwide.

Each thinking hat is described in about 4-8 chapters that focus on one idea or practical usage of the hat that the author believes deserves special attention. Each hat section starts with an introduction and exists with a summary, which I found very convenient.

Original Content

Eduard de Bono is world famous for his novel solutions to old problems, and The Six Thinking Hats falls into this category. It’s a unique framework designed for efficiency and targeted against our innate cognitive biases. The solution proposed by the author is straightforward, making it even more surprising that we had to wait so long for someone like Dr de Bono to articulate it.

General Tone

The book is an easy read, as is characteristic of the author’s style. The latter has a clear structure and assertive tone, associated with simple thoughts and abundant examples, and it reads more like a motivating talk rather than a university lecture.

Practical Usage

The practical aspect of this work is its most prominent asset. The ideas are straightforward, making them readily useable as the foundation of a workshop. However, a supplemental amount of research on behalf of the lecturer would undoubtedly improve the chances of selling the ideas to the audience.

The Six Thinking Hats does require some effort to implement, especially since it involves orchestrating the activities of a group. The method is not easily applied (or cost-efficient) for an individual. However, it is always good to be aware of our limitations and our brain’s tendency to mix and confuse rationality with emotions and facts with biased perceptions.

Despite the evidence that the book provides in its opening chapter on the potency of the method, it is unfortunately anecdotal. Still, it is worth trying because of its simplicity and benevolent nature, especially in strategic meetings.

Depth

This book lacks much-needed theory or depth, meaning it must be supplemented with additional titles such as Thinking, Fast and Slow or Fooled by Randomnessor even better, some textbooks.


You will only be able to appreciate the depth and ingenuity of the ideas proposed if you already have some background on the subject. 


Eduard de Bono has received criticism for his work, primarily since most of his books are constituted of primary ideas with plenty of examples. Still, sources, references, and evidence to support his propositions are not available in the book.

Authority

Eduard de Bono’s work is 30 or 40 years old, and we can say it has stood the test of time. De Bono is well-known for his work on critical thinking and creativity, and his methods have been tested in large and respectable corporations. They are also taught in workshops worldwide.


Style

Genre

The book can be classified under general interest/business management.

Writing Style

Eduard de Bono’s writing style is clear, concise, thought-provoking, and enjoyable. There is a bit of repetition, which can be annoying sometimes, but overall, it’s a smooth read.

The abundance of examples is welcome as sometimes the correct methods for using the hats may not be very evident without them.

Accessibility

This book is meant for every professional and especially decision-makers. Little technical knowledge is required to understand the book’s ideas, although a basic understanding of cognitive biases and rationality will make it more valuable. The book is also free of technical jargon, complicated acronyms, or convoluted arguments.


Author

Bio

From Wikipedia:

Edward Charles Francis Publius de Bono (19 May 1933 – 9 June 2021) was a Maltese physician, psychologist, author, inventor, philosopher, and consultant. He originated the term lateral thinking, wrote the book Six Thinking Hats, and was a proponent of the teaching of thinking as a subject in schools.

Publications

Some of his publications:

  • The Use of Lateral Thinking (1967) ISBN 0-14-013788-2, introduced the term “lateral thinking
  • The Five-Day Course in Thinking (1968), introduced the L game
  • Lateral Thinking: Creativity Step by Step, (1970), Harper & Row 1973 paperback: ISBN 0-06-090325-2
  • Lateral Thinking for Management (1971)
  • Po: A Device for Successful Thinking (1972), ISBN 0-671-21338-5, introduced the term Po
  • Atlas of Management Thinking (1981)
  • Conflicts: A Better Way to Resolve them (1985)
  • Serious Creativity: Using the Power of Lateral Thinking to Create New Ideas (1992) ISBN 0-00-255143-8 – a summation of many of De Bono’s ideas on creativity
  • Water Logic: The Alternative to I am right You are Wrong (1993) ISBN 978-1563120374
  • Parallel thinking: from Socratic thinking to de Bono thinking (1994) ISBN 0-670-85126-4
  • How to Be More Interesting (1998)
  • New Thinking for the New Millennium (1999)
  • H+ (Plus): A New Religion (2006)
  • How to Have Creative Ideas (2007)
  • Think! Before It’s Too Late (2009) ISBN 978-0-09-192409-6
  • Lateral Thinking – An Introduction (2014) ISBN 978-0091955021
  • Bonting – Thinking to Create Value (2016) ISBN 978-9995750190