In traditional adversarial thinking, A and B are in conflict. Each side seeks to criticize the other point of view. The Six Hats method allows Parallel Thinking. Both A and B wear each hat together as they explore all sides of an issue. Adversarial confrontation is replaced by a cooperative exploration of the subject.
When we think in the normal way, we try to do too much at once. We may be looking at the information, forming ideas, and judging someone else’s ideas all at the same time.
“Instead of trying to do everything at once, we separate out the different aspects of thinking. This way we can pay full attention to each aspect in turn.”
The Six Hats method allows us to unbundle thinking. Instead of trying to do everything at once, we separate out the different aspects of thinking. This way we can pay full attention to each aspect in turn. Think of full-color printing, where the basic color separations are made and then each basic color is printed separately onto the same sheet to give full-color printing. In the same way, we separate the modes of thinking and then apply each mode to the same subject in order to end up with full-color thinking on the subject.
There is a suggestion that the chemical setting in the brain (neurotransmitters, etc.) may be different when we are being positive from when we are being negative and from when we are being creative. If this proves to be so, then there is an absolute need to separate out the different components of thinking in order to do each properly. It would be impossible to have one brain setting that was ideal for all sorts of thinking.
Separating Ego and Performance
“Because the Six Hats system quickly becomes a neutral game, the method provides a very convenient way to switch thinking or to ask for a certain type of thinking.”
If you do not like an idea, then you are not going to spend much time thinking of the benefits or good points of that idea. This is because if you uncovered sufficient good points for the idea to be accepted, then you would have “lost” the argument.
With the Six Hats method, however, the thinker can be specifically asked to give a yellow hat “performance.” This is a challenge to the thinker, who will not want to appear unable to perform this way. So yellow hat thinking gets done even by someone who does not like the idea. In the course of this yellow hat thinking, ideas may turn up which cause the thinker to change his or her mind. It also can happen the other way around. A euphoric supporter of an idea can be asked to do a black hat performance. This may turn up difficulties that reduce the previous euphoria.
If you ask someone not to be so negative, that person may be offended. But if you ask the person to do yellow hat thinking, there is no reason to be offended. You might also say, “That is good black hat thinking; let us have some more of it.” Later you would say, “We have had a lot of good black hat thinking. Now, what about switching to the yellow hat?”
Because the Six Hats system quickly becomes a neutral game, the method provides a very convenient way to switch thinking or to ask for a certain type of thinking. This is not easy to do in any other way without offending the people involved.
Because there is now a simple and practical way of referring to different modes of thinking, people become aware that they are stuck in one mode or another.
“I think I have only been doing red hat thinking about this.”
“We should make a deliberate yellow hat effort here.”
People can now comment on their own thinking and can also comment on the thinking of others. The Six Hats method allows an increased awareness of what thinking is actually being used on any occasion.