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An antelope grazing in Africa hears a sound in the grass. Immediately all the neuronal clusters concerned with danger are preactivated so the lion is recognized as soon as it emerges from the grass, and the antelope is able to escape. Such presensitization is a key part of how the brain works and why it is so efficient.
It is not possible to be presensitized in different directions at the same time just as it would not be possible to design a golf club that was the best club for driving and at the same time the best club for putting. That is why the Six Hats method is essential. It allows the brain to maximize its sensitivity in different directions at different times. It is simply not possible to have that maximum sensitization in different directions all at the same time.
Argument versus Parallel Thinking
The basic idea behind Western thinking was designed about twenty-three hundred years ago by the Greek "Gang of Three" and is based on argument.
Socrates put a high emphasis on dialectic and argument. In 80 percent of the dialogues in which he was involved (as written up by Plato) there is no constructive outcome at all. Socrates saw his role as simply pointing out what was "wrong." He wanted to clarify the correct use of concepts like justice and love by pointing out incorrect usage. Plato believed that the "ultimate" truth was hidden below appearances. His famous analogy is of a person chained up in a cave so that he can see only the back wall of the cave. There is a fire at the entrance to the cave. After a person enters the cave, his shadow is projected onto the back wall of the cave and that is all the chained-up person can see. Plato used this analogy to point out that as we go through life we can see only the "shadows" of the truth.
Aristotle systematized inclusion/exclusion logic. From past experience we would put together "boxes," definitions, categories or principles. When we came across something, we judged into which box it fell. Something could be in the box or not in the box. It could not be half in and half out - nor could it be anywhere else.
As a result, Western thinking is concerned with "what is," which is determined by analysis, judgement and argument.
That is a fine and useful system. But there is another whole aspect of thinking that is concerned with "what can be," which involves constructive thinking, creative thinking, and "designing a way forward."
In 1998, I was asked to give an opening talk at the Australian Constitutional Convention that was looking at the future of federation. I told the following story.
Once upon a time a man painted half his car white and the other half black. His friends asked him why he did such a strange thing. He replied: "Because it is such fun, whenever I have an accident, to hear the witnesses in court contradict each other."
At the end of the convention the chairperson, Sir Anthony Mason, told me that he was going to use that story because it is so often the case in an argument that both sides are right but are looking at different aspects of the situation.
Many cultures in the world, perhaps even the majority of cultures, regard argument as aggressive, personal and nonconstructive. That is why so many cultures readily take up the parallel thinking of the Six Hats method.
A Changing World
A thinking system based on argument is excellent just as the front left wheel of a car is excellent. There is nothing wrong with it at all. But it is not sufficient.
A doctor is treating a child with a rash. The doctor immediately thinks of some possible "boxes." Is it sunburn? Is it food allergy? Is it measles? The doctor then examines the signs and symptoms and makes a judgement. If the doctor judges that the condition fits into the "measles" box, then the treatment of measles is written on the side of that "box" and the doctor knows exactly what to do. That is traditional thinking at its best.
From the past we create standard situations. We judge into which "standard situation box" a new situation falls. Once we have made this judgement, our course of action is clear.
Such a system works very well in a stable world. In a stable world the standard situations of the past still apply. But in a changing world the standard situations may no longer apply.
Instead of judging our way forward, we need to design our way forward. We need to be thinking about "what can be," not just about "what is."
Yet the basic tradition of Western thinking (or any other thinking) has not provided a simple model of constructive thinking. That is precisely what the Six Hats method (parallel thinking) is all about.
What Is Parallel Thinking?
There is a large and beautiful country house. One person is standing in front of the house. One person is standing behind the house. Two other people are standing on each side of the house. All four have a different view of the house. All four are arguing (by intercom) that the view each is seeing is the correct view of the house.
Using parallel thinking they all walk around and look at the front. Then they all walk around to the side, then the back, and finally the remaining side. So at each moment each person is looking in parallel from the same point of view.
This is almost the exact opposite of argument, adversarial, confrontational thinking where each party deliberately takes an opposite view. Because each person eventually looks at all sides of the building, the subject is explored fully. Parallel thinking means that at any moment everyone is looking in the same direction.
But parallel thinking goes even further. In traditional thinking, if two people disagree, there is an argument in which each tries to prove the other party wrong. In parallel thinking, both views, no matter how contradictory, are put down in parallel. If, later on, it is essential to choose between the differing positions, then an attempt to choose is made at that point. If a choice cannot be made, then the design has to cover both possibilities.
At all times the emphasis is on designing a way forward.
Directions and Hats
The essence of parallel thinking is that at any moment everyone is looking in the same direction - but the direction can be changed. An explorer might be asked to look north or to look east. Those are standard direction labels. So we need some direction labels for thinking. What are the different directions in which thinkers can be invited to look?
This is where the hats come in.
In many cultures there is already a strong association between thinking and "thinking hats" or "thinking caps." The value of a hat as a symbol is that it indicates a role. People are said to be wearing a certain hat. Another advantage is that a hat can be put on or taken off with ease. A hat is also visible to everyone around. For those reasons I chose hats as the symbols for the directions of thinking.
Although physical hats are sometimes used, the hats are usually imaginary. Posters of the hats on the walls of meeting rooms often are used, however, as a reminder of the directions. There are six colored hats corresponding to the six directions of thinking: white, red, black, yellow, green, blue.
Directions Not Descriptions
It is very important to note that the hats are directions and not descriptions of what has happened. It is not a matter of everyone saying what they like and then the hats being used to describe what has been said. It is a matter of setting out to think in that direction.
"Let's have some white hat thinking here" means a deliberate focus on information. Everyone now tries to think of information that is available, information that is needed, questions to be asked, other ways of getting information, and so on.
"I want your red hat on this" is a specific request for feelings, intuition and emotions on a particular issue.
"That is good black hat thinking; now let us switch to some yellow hat thinking...." In this case the term black hat describes thinking that seems to be cautious and seems to point out possible difficulties, but the main intention is to ask for a switch to the yellow hat direction (benefits, values, and so forth).
It is extremely important to appreciate the difference between description and direction. A description is concerned with what has happened. A direction is concerned with what is about to happen. "I want you to look to the east" is very different from "You have been looking to the east."
"I want you to cook some scrambled eggs" is very different from "I see that you have cooked some scrambled eggs."
Not Categories of People
It is possible to create tests to determine whether a person is type A or type B, or any similar descriptive discriminations. Psychologists do that all the time. The difficulty is that once people have been put into "boxes" they tend to stay there. Again, that is an example of "what is" instead of "what can be."
In a race a thin man would usually beat a fat man ("what is"). But if the fat man learns to ride a bicycle, then the fat man will beat the thin man ("what can be").
There is a huge temptation to use the hats to describe and categorize people, such as "she is black hat" or "he is a green hat person." That temptation must be resisted. The hats are not descriptions of people but modes of behavior.
It is true that some people may be permanently cautious and inclined to look for dangers. It is true that some people might always be bubbling with ideas and others might be better at focusing on facts. People may prefer one mode to another. People might be better at one mode than another. Nevertheless, the hats are not categories of people.
If you drive a car with a manual gearshift, you use all the gears. In the engine of your car all cylinders are firing. The hats are directions of thinking. Every person must be able, and skilled, to look in all the directions.
For those reasons the use of the hats as labels is dangerous because it destroys the whole point of the system, which is that everyone can look in every direction.
Note on Using the Thinking Hats
When people tell me that they have been using the Six Hats method, I often ask how they have been using it, and discover that sometimes they have been using it incorrectly. In a meeting, someone has been chosen as the black hat thinker, someone else as the white hat thinker, and so on. The people then keep those roles for the whole meeting. That is almost exactly the opposite of how the system should be used. The whole point of parallel thinking is that the experience and intelligence of everyone should be used in each direction. So everyone present wears the black hat at the appointed time. Everyone present wears the white hat at another time. That is parallel thinking and makes fullest use of everyone's intelligence and experience.
Many people tell me that they enjoy argument because they can show off how clever they are. They can win arguments and demolish opponents. None of that is very constructive but there may be a human need to show off.
Thus showing off is not excluded from parallel thinking and the Six Hats method. A thinker now shows off by showing how many considerations he or she can put forward under the yellow hat, how many under the black hat, and so forth. You show off by performing well as a thinker. You show off by performing better as a thinker than others in the meeting. The difference is that this type of showing off is constructive. The ego is no longer tied to being right.
Playing the Game
There are all sorts of attempts to change the personalities of people. It is believed that if you point out a personality type or a weakness, the person will seek to compensate for that weakness. Such methods are generally slow, ineffective and do not work.
Once people are put into a certain "box" or category they may try to compensate. But the effort of compensation reminds them of "what they are," so they sink even deeper into that category.
Ever since Freud, the emphasis has been on analysis: find out the deep truths and motivations for action. Confucius's approach was almost the exact opposite. Instead of focusing on personality he chose to focus directly on behavior. He urged you to use the right behavior with your colleagues, your subordinates, your superiors and your family. Confucius was not the least bit interested in your personality or psychological makeup.
The Six Hats method follows the Confucian approach rather than the analytical one. The rules of behavior are laid out. You follow those rules. If you are aggressive, no one is going to try to make you less aggressive. But if the yellow hat is in use, then you are to use your aggression in that direction.
By going straight to behavior, the Six Hats method is much more acceptable and effective and quick than methods that set out to change personalities.
The "game" aspect of the Six Hats is very important. If a game is being played, then anyone who does not obey the rules of the game is considered uncooperative. If there is a switch from the black hat (caution) to the yellow hat (possible benefits) and a person continues to lay out the potential dangers, then that person is seen to be refusing to play the game. Getting people to "play the game" is a very powerful form of changing behavior.
Over the years the results of using the Six Hats method have become increasingly clear. The results are based on feedback from many sources and fall into four broad categories that are summarized here.
With the Six Hats method, the intelligence, experience and knowledge of all the members of the group are fully used. Everyone is looking and working in the same direction.
A magnet is powerful because all the particles are aligned in the same direction. That is not the case with argument or free discussion. With the argument mode (as in a court of law), each party seeks to win the case. If one party thinks of a point that might benefit the other party, then that point is never raised. The purpose is to win, not to explore the subject honestly.
It is totally absurd that a person should hold back information or a point of view because revealing it would weaken his or her argument. The focusing of the sun's rays can melt the toughest of metals. In the same way, the focusing of the mental ability of many people on a problem can more easily solve that problem.
Optus (in Australia) had set aside four hours for an important discussion. Using the Six Hats method the discussion was concluded in forty-five minutes.
From every side there are reports of how much quicker meetings become when the six hats are used. Meetings take half the time. Meetings take a third or a quarter of the time. Sometimes, as in the case of ABB, meetings take one-tenth of the time.
Excerpted from Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono Copyright © 1999 by MICA Management Resources, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted February 24, 2014
Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats is an easy and quick read. Although the book is short does not mean that it lacks value. In fact, De Bono presents an interesting alternative to argument by explaining a different approach toward viewing a subject. Instead of argument which has been used for so many years, De Bono explains a more efficient method called parallel thinking. Unlike argument where sides argue about what is right or wrong, in parallel thinking all options are accepted and explored instead of being thrown out. Parallel thinking is done with the help of the “Six Thinking Hats.”
De Bono created the “Six Thinking Hats” all different colors where each color represents something else, differentiating the hats from one another. He has the White hat for information, red for feelings, black for critical thinking, yellow for benefits, green for creativity, and blue for organizing. De Bono’s Six Things Hats does an excellent job of explaining the six hats by providing examples and summaries on each hat. The somewhat repetitive content and structure of the book in addition to the summaries of the hats helps you really understand this method. I liked the book because it helped me realize that parallel thinking is more effective than argument because you get to explore the facts, negatives, and positives of all ideas and try to use that to help tie things together or come to a mutual agreement. I would recommend others to read this book especially those like me who have never heard about the six hats.
Posted June 7, 2013
The Six Thinking Hats is a great and motivating read. This book is well written and easy to read. I highly recommend the Six Thinking Hats to anyone who wants to empower themselves and take their thinking to another level. Edward de Bono writes about using different styles of thinking that can be used for any situation. He organizes philosophies about thinking that has been around for ages into visual concepts to be applied in daily scenarios. This book is especially recommended to managers or leaders as it teaches the essential approach to working with groups of people.
What about the hats? The way De Bono explains it is brilliant. Each hat is a different color: white, red, black, yellow, green and blue. De Bono assigns each hat with a combination of qualities and characteristics. The white hat’s job is to state the facts, red is to state the emotions, black is to state the negative aspects, yellow is to state the positive aspects, green is to think creatively (outside of the box), and blue is think about thinking (control of thinking).
As the author explains in Chapter 6 the best way to use the six thinking hats is by role playing. The point of role playing is that everyone in the group should have knowledge of the six hats and the moderator (manager, chairperson, facilitator,engineer.. etc) would tell everyone to put a certain color hat on at a certain time and only discuss the matter at hand using the characteristic and quality of the hat. The use of the six thinking hats will allow groups of employees, classmates, or even friends to work together productively. By using this method of thinking the time spent in meetings would be greatly reduced
Posted June 1, 2012
This book is most beneficial for people looking for a new technique to approach problems and make complex decisions. The Six Thinking Hat concept is easy to understand and easy to implement anywhere. The author claims this technique is so effective and popular that companies such as DuPont, Heineken, NASA, Motorola, and AT&T are either currently using it or have used it.
The major effect this technique has in decision making and team meetings is the significant decrease in waste of time during meetings. This is achieved through the use of Six Hats; each hat has a different color and therefore a different meaning. During a meeting everyone in the room wears the same hat and tries to view the situation or problem from the same point of view. This way people are all on the same page at the same time and so arguments are avoided. After individually explaining each hat De Bono proceeds to explain how the hats work together as a whole to help facilitate decision making. Each chapter explains each hat and gives many examples of dialogues to suggest how to use each hat.
I definitely recommend reading this book because it is easy to comprehend and is not time consuming. Although this book was mainly written for leaders, managers, teachers and those in charge of decision making it could be read and understood by everyone. The fact that this technique could be applied without the need to purchase any equipment or the need to hire a consultant makes it much more valuable. Purchasing this book could potentially save a lot of money for companies and save a lot of time for anyone trying to make the best decision possible.
Posted May 19, 2011
This is an interesting book. It is an easy read, the Author does a good job repeating information to make sure the reader understands whats going on. He provides good examples. This is definitely a different way of running meetings. I can see how it can save companies time in meetings by making them more productive.
I'm kind of conflicted about how to rate this book, because to me it seems like it needs to be adopted by the culture of the company as a whole (To be the most beneficial to a company).
On the contrary, it is possible for members of a particular meeting to read the book and try to apply what they have learned to their meeting to determine whether or not it will be successful for them.
Don't be mislead by the simple name and cover of the book. I believe the reason DeBono did this is to demonstrate how simple the ideas and concepts are. He could have used very complicated names, but it is possible that, that would discourage readers from reading the book.
This rating would be 5 stars if the Author would have provided a few more examples of how to incorporate/adopt this for a meeting.
Overall, it was a good read, and I would recommend that one member of a meeting reads it before all the members read it.
Posted June 5, 2010
The Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono defines the difference between argumentative, lateral, and parallel thinking where The Six thinking hat method is a tool to make lateral and parallel thinking easier for meetings. While most of the book consists of explaining and educating people on how to use the six thinking hat method, the beginning of the book explains an unorthodox way of thinking that promotes more co-operative thinking in a meeting setting. DeBono explains why he chose hats and the meaning behind the colors which is good to see the thought process behind how this tool came about. This method of thinking is much different than what students are familiar in school where they are taught to argue against one other. The main thing to take out of this book is that decision making and problem solving is beneficial to the group and consequently the group has to work together not against each other to come up with a decision.
DeBono claims that this method is used in real world industry and people say that they use it at work, but unless the top management pushes the six thinking hat method people will not take it seriously. I tried to push it when we were trying to make decisions when we were in a group but everybody just says "we just want to get this done man, let's forget about the hats." I hope I do get to see this method in industry and that this is the exception, because when done right I can see how this method can become an effective tool. Another flaw that DeBono tries to address is the abuse of the blue hat and the black hat. The Blue hat needs to be someone who is experienced in this method or the meeting won't get anywhere. The Black hat abuse is excessive pessimism of ideas and those do not let the idea get off the ground. But one abuse nobody mentioned was the green hat abuse that could happen. The green hat is supposed to represent creativity and every idea should be welcomed. When we were making some suggestions someone brought about an idea about on how to solve the problem. It was farfetched to say the least and impractical but most of the group wanted to exclude the idea and not take it seriously.
Overall the book is an easy read and gives many examples on how to effectively use the six thinking hats method. DeBono really tries to teach the method and as a result goes into great detail, almost to the point of being redundant in order for the reader to grasp the conception. His prose is not hard to understand and the pacing is such that right when the reader is about to get bored of reading about one hat it switches to another aspect of the hat or another hat entirely. I appreciate DeBono's effort into making this an easy read and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is tired of arguing and wants to learn about a method of discussion that promotes camaraderie within an organization.
Posted June 5, 2010
For this book, I believe that the point that DeBono was trying to put across was the purpose of Lateral thinking and the effectiveness of having everyone in a meeting focused on one direction at a time. This not only cuts down on the amount of incessant bickering amongst fellow members of the focus group, but also drives the group concentrate on the problem at hand, thus providing a quicker and more effective conclusion to the issue at hand. One needs to look beyond the issue of the color of the hats and rather at the figurative illustrations that they are trying to convey. Good meetings are ones that can proceed uninterrupted by confusion and nonsense, and this is exactly what Mr. Debono states and effectively describes.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone that is in a corporate environment or is very corporate driven. I have firsthand experience with this concept and can honestly say that it works, and it works well. The ability for one to control the flow of conversation and information within a meeting, is the ability to achieve success. Therefore I give this book a two thumbs up and say that it is a must have for all managerial staff.
Posted June 8, 2009
This book is very simple and easy to follow and understand. You can get the whole idea of the book by reading the back cover. It introduces a new way to communicate with people and problem solving. Even though I found some of the examples in the book a little unpractical to use in real meetings, but they are definitely great metaphors to help readers understand the concepts. The six hat method is more useful when you use within your own head and try to make meetings more efficient. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 5, 2009
Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono can become a valuable tool for any person who has had to suffer through unproductive meetings. This book provides a simple method to organize conversations and to make them flow in a productive and efficient direction. The best part of the Six Thinking Hats method is that anyone can learn it. The books is presented in a casual and friendly manner that doesn't bog you down with fancy language or technical terms. It's simple and to the point. A recommended read for any age, cause sooner or later you may find yourself wanting a solution to unproductive conversation. The Six Thinking Hats may be just what you're looking for.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 30, 2009
The six thinking hats is nothing more than a drawn out book to help teach people to think properly. If the author gets paid by the page, then he will be rich soon enough. This book could be cut in half by taking all the random examples that are hard to follow. If De Bono rewrites this book he should use a few examples and use them trough out the book to show how the hats can be used in real examples. This book is written for junior high school maybe even high school students.
This method is already practiced by most people but they do not realize they are using the method. If you are the group facilitator in meetings for your company then this is a must read it will help you keep the meetings on track and get stuff done, other than that the book is a waste of time.
Posted June 8, 2008
I read this book for an assignment in my statistical quality control class and I actually enjoyed this book. I found that the six hats method seems to be a very logical straight forward way to quicken and increase productivity of brainstorming sessions and it does so in a very clear way explaining why this method may help. This method seems to be geared towards group meetings but I feel that I could implement it into times where I just need to come up with ideas on my own. I recommend this book for anyone who wants a more efficient way to come up with solutions or ideas for any project they may have.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 3, 2008
De Bono¿s Six Thinking Hats is a great book to read even if you¿re not the best reader, like me. It is easy to follow, understand, and relate to. The book is very well outlined and can be well summarized just by reading the back cover. Plenty of examples are given in regards to each type of thinking, so one of them is bound to ¿stick.¿ Like many have said before, it can be read fairly quickly even for those slow readers. What the book emphasizes the most is a new, different, and more structured way of thinking. It emphasizes, for me at least, the hypothetical motion of wearing one color of hat for one type of thinking: white for factual thinking, red for emotional, black for cautious, yellow for positive, green for creativity, and lastly blue for organizational. This symbolism can help to keep thinking structured whether it is during a meeting, for taking notes, common discussions, or decision making of any sort. Overall for the time I¿ve invested reading this book, I would say the benefit taken from it is definitely worth my time. I¿d recommend this book to anyone who would like to improve their decision making, and more.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 5, 2008
The lesson of this book is worth while.In essence,'Six Thinking Hats' is about improving communication and decision-making in groups. De Bono's style is accessible, succinct, well-structured and easy to follow. The main goal is to structure thinking and make it more effective. 'Thinking often deosn not follow a pattern . We think everything 'at once'.The six 'thinking hats' are different ways of looking at an issue that has to be decided: under the white hat one presents the facts, under the red hat one says how one feels about the issue, under the black hat one looks at the negative effects of the decision, under the yellow hat one looks at the positive effects of the decision, under the green hat one thinks of alternatives, and under the blue hat one clarifies which kind of thinking is going on. Overall, thinking becomes clearer when the different parts that go into it are brought into the open. We stringly recommend this book not only for business or engineering students , in general is a book that helps improve the decision making in any aspect of life.It was stimulating to read this book, evryone will find very interesting to analyse thier thinking method under de Bono's technique.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 31, 2007
The six thinking hats provides the best effective way to demonstrate alternative ways to be a thinker. Dr. de Bono's method is a simple and powerful method by concentrating all thinking in one direction and making sure all competing views get attention, a very strong output can be achieved in the minimum timespan. The Hats demonstrates alternative ways to approach a common goal. The goal can be from creating a new product to starting a new business. The benefits from the six thinking hats is creating an environment that every person is involve. It gives great examples and easy to understand.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 2, 2007
This is a great book and easy to understand. It¿s explained how six different hats can be applied in the ordinary or in the business life. It helps us to solve problems by switching different thinking of process without prefer the ego or personality. Also, it gives some example and explanation about emotions, logic, information, hope, and creativity can be deal with separately. This book has helped to change the way of people thinking.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 1, 2007
I would recommend this book to all beginning college students due to the fact that it teaches the reader how to organize their thought process into a more efficient and effective process. The book is relatively short. It takes about two and a half hours to read. Dr. De Bono does a good job instructing readers how to use his techniques without sounding like a self-help, type of inspirational speaker. Dr. De Bono has quite a good reputation and has done an exceptional job researching, planning and completing this project. If you need help with organizing your thoughts, check it out.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 20, 2007
Posted May 1, 2002
Great thinkers think from multiple perspectives. This book teaches readers how to do it expertly, similar to the techniques taught in Why Didn't I Think of That? - Think the Unthinkable and Achieve Creative Greatness.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2001
Posted January 4, 2000
Ed De Bono's 'Six Thinking Hats' is absolutely crucial if you are managing complexity. The book provides a simple, sound, and structured methodology for dealing with decision-making. The process also helps folks, from management to support, in becoming more disciplined and rigorous thinkers.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 26, 2013
No text was provided for this review.