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6 Thinking Hats Tool for Individual Thinking

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Decision-making is the process of selecting from multiple choices and taking action (McDermott, n.d.). The decisions one makes range in importance from minimal to life-altering. Some decisions are personal others are work-related, but no matter the arena it is important to utilize one or more decision-making tools or techniques. The Six Thinking Hats is a technique that forces an individual to think outside of his or her own perspective to obtain a well-rounded view of a situation or scenario (Mind Tools Ltd, 2011). The content of this paper will describe the Six Thinking Hats technique, provide an application example, and explain when one would and when one would not use this technique.

Edward de Bono was the creator of this technique and wrote about it in his book '6 Thinking Hats'. The Six Thinking Hats technique is a tool for individual thinking as well as group settings and is used in combination with parallel thinking. Parallel thinking is directing a group's thinking process in one direction so they can effectively analyze, generate, and make better decisions (de Bono, 2006).

Many people who have found success think in a rational, positive way. Even though this way of thinking is part of how they reached success, one may fail to view a problem from an emotional, creative, or negative perspective. The inability to do so may cause him or her to underestimate resistance, not use enough creativity, or fail to develop contingency plans (Mind Tools Ltd, 2011). When employing the Six Thinking Hats technique one will be able to solve an issue using all approaches. Ideas, plans, and decisions "will mix ambition, skill in execution, public sensitivity, creativity and good contingency planning" (Mind Tools Ltd, 2011, para. 5).

As previously stated, the Six Thinking Hats technique can be used individually or in meetings. In a group situation it helps put individual opinions and egos aside so that the focus can be on the issue or topic without distractions and arguments that occur because of different thinking styles. Of the six 'Hats' each represents a different style of thinking that also relates to the specific color: white, red, black, yellow, green, and blue.

The White Hat represents neutral where the focus is on the available information, data, and facts. Under this Hat one must analyze past trends and historical data. He or she must look for what may be missing and come up with a way to correct or take account of it (Mind Tools Ltd, 2011).

The Red Hat represents fire and warmth that signifies emotion and intuition, usually void in rational thinking (de Bono, 2006). When wearing this Hat one can openly express the emotional side of the issue in a useful and direct way. This Hat also makes the wearer think about how others will react to the possible decision being made (Mind Tools Ltd, 2011).

The Black Hat stands for the "stern judge wearing black robe" (Value Based Management, 2011, para. 4). This Hat can be viewed as the "devils advocate" Hat because it makes one look at all the bad possibilities of a decision. It makes the wearer try to find reasons why the decision may not work by highlighting the flaws in the plan. Identifying these weaknesses early permits time for alteration, elimination, or preparation of contingency plans. Black Hat thinking is one of the greatest benefits of this technique as it allows rational, positive people the ability to see problems in advance that they may not have seen otherwise (Mind Tools Ltd, 2011).

The Yellow Hat represents sunshine and optimism (Value Based Management, 2011). It allows the wearer to see all of the benefits and value in the decision. This Hat keeps one going when everything looks dark and difficult (Mind Tools Ltd, 2011).

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