Articles and Advice

Mental Super Food: How Six Thinking Hats sharpens your brain

Entrepreneurs have that rare ability to challenge the status quo, shake things up and blaze trails. But what about the ability to challenge their own way of thinking?

Whether it’s sprouting new ideas, challenging competitors or developing new technology, entrepreneurs have the brainpower to challenge their environment. But exceptional thinking lies in the ability to challenge ourselves.

The father of brain training, Edward de Bono, established the Six Thinking Hats system as a way of creating a ‘ parallel thinking’ framework. It’ s all about coming at things from a different angle to determine strategy, tactics or problem solve. If you tend to have a particular deficiency in some areas of decision-making or problem-solving, Six Hats provides the framework to focus or redirect your natural style of thinking.

The Six Hats

Edward de Bono coined Six Thinking Hats in 1985 as a framework for helping groups become ”better thinkers” and it is still widely utilised by large corporations and small startups.

Six Thinking Hats helps groups get more collaborative in their thinking by breaking down different styles of thinking into six parallel areas. The group wears each hat throughout the discussion to allow everyone to focus on one approach at a time. Each spectrum of thought is given due attention. By giving time to six types of thinking, problem solving is approached in a structured way. It also helps prevent biased, emotional or overly critical responses.

Think of it as brainstorming out of your comfort zone.

The Six Hats Framework

Six Thinking Hats can be a powerful tool for startups looking to define strategy. By separating your thinking into different categories, you can ensure you don’ t miss anything. By wearing a different coloured (metaphorical) thinking hat, you can focus in on, or redirect thinking.

  • Red Hat: Gut instinct, hunches, feelings Green Hat: Creativity, ideas, alternatives, provocations
  • Black Hat: Problems, difficulties, weaknesses
  • White Hat: Information, data, facts
  • Blue Hat: Process, developing thinking agendas, planning for action
  • Yellow Hat: Benefits, plus points

The Blue Hat (managerial) will moderate the discussion, stick to timeframes and keep all discussion on track as per the relevant hat.

The White Hat (neutral) is concerned with facts and figures. A white hat is likely to ask, “What are the costs of manufacture?”, “What are the revenue forecasts?” and provide market research.

The Green Hat (creative) focuses on fresh ideas and alternatives. A green hat is likely to ask, “What are the other options?” and focuses on brainstorming.

The Yellow Hat (positivity) identifies the values and benefits.

The Red Hat (intuitive) is emotional and will bring up fear, excitement and gut instinct. A red hat is likely to say things like ”I’ m excited about this,” or “This suggestion makes me angry”.

And finally, The Black Hat (pessimistic) is there to spot problems and argue against ideas. A black hat is likely to ask, “What problems can we find?”

Why Six Hat Thinking works for Startups

In the startup phase, time is of the essence. Defining strategy is a critical task but is often one that sucks up valuable time. Particularly if discussions get snagged on individual’ s rigid ideas or behaviours. Whether you’ re dealing with a problem or you’re defining a strategy for growth, things slow down when one style of thinking dictates. A one-sided approach can disadvantage the growth of any new business.

Six Hat Thinking and Entrepreneurs

It’ s like super food for your brain.

Developing and connecting with different parts of our brain increases wisdom and helps us manage uncertainty and complexity. Without this, we are less likely to exercise brain-mind connection and agile decision-making. In the risk-oriented world of startups, leaders need to be able to perform such nimble brain gymnastics. Six Hats helps challenge our thinking and optimise our thinking to nurture an entrepreneurial mindset. Six Thinking Hats will present us with a way of thinking that doesn’ t come naturally.

If you feed your brain, it will become your most valuable asset allowing you to think in ways you don’ t normally think. As de Bono says, if you never change your mind, why have one?