Six Thinking Hats: A book review by Bob Morris

Six Thinking Hats, Second Edition
Edward De Bono
Back Back Books (1999)
Note: When preparing for some interviews, I re-read several books on the creative process and remain convinced that all are still among the best.

Pass the Idea

I presume to suggest that you read this book before you read de Bono’s Six Action Shoes and strongly urge you to read both. As he explains in Chapter 6, “The first value of the six thinking hats is that of defined role-playing….[the second] is that of attention directing….[the third] is that of convenience….[and the fourth] is the possible basis in brain chemistry” which de Bono outlines in the previous chapter.

What about the hats? The conceit is brilliant. Each hat is of a different color: white, red, black, yellow, green, and blue. De Bono assigns to each a quite specific combination of qualities and characteristics. Since childhood, my favorite color has always been green. Here is what de Bono says about it: “Green is grass, vegetation, and abundant., fertile growth. The green hat indicates creativity and new ideas.” De Bono also briefly characterizes the other colors and then devotes an entire chapter to discussing each of them in depth.

According to the subtitle, de Bono provides “an essential approach to business management.” That is true. He helps his reader to increase various reasoning skills through carefully defined and structured role-playing, and, by directing and then focusing attention where it is needed most. How? By understanding and then developing entirely different perspectives which the various hats represent: White (neutral and objective), Red (powerful emotions), Black (gloomy and negative), Yellow (sunny and positive), Green (fertile and creative), and Blue (logical and in control). You get the idea. De Bono urges his reader to SEE all of the hats while associating with each its own defining qualities and characteristics.

Here’s an exercise (inspired by Bono ideas) which will work very well with those who have been required to read Six Thinking Hats prior to getting together to brainstorm. Buy several of those delightful Dr. Seuss hats (at least one of each of the six different colors, more if needed) and keep the hats out of sight until everyone is seated. Review the agenda. Review what de Bono says about what each color represents. Then distribute the Dr. Seuss hats, making certain that someone is wearing a hat of each color. Proceed with the discussion, chaired by a person wearing a Blue or White hat. It is imperative that whoever wears a Black hat, for example, be consistently negative and argumentative whereas whoever wears a Yellow must be consistently positive and supportive. After about 15-20 minutes, have each person change to a different colored hat. Resume discussion. Thanks to de Bono and (yes) to Dr. Seuss, you can expect to have an especially enjoyable as well as productive session.

In addition to de Bono’s Six Action Shoes, there are other excellent books also worthy of your consideration. They include those written by Guy Claxton, Michael Michalko, Joey Reiman, and Roger von Oech.


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