The Six Thinking Hats method encourages participants to adopt different thinking styles as they consider a problem situation. It allows the group to consider an issue or challenge from different perspectives, rather than focusing on right or wrong answers.


Participants discuss a problem situation or challenging scenario by mentally ‘wearing’ different hats. Each hat represents a different thinking style (e.g., optimistic, risk-averse, innovative, emotional, or fact-based).  After wearing a particular hat, or multiple hats, they reflect on how the exercise helped them to mentally practice considering an issue from another perspective, and how each thinking style adds value to collaborative dialogue.




Any number of participants

For larger groups, the participants can be allocated to smaller breakout rooms/groups, with four to eight participants per group.


Minimum 45 minutes | F2F & Online


A poster, slide or infographic that displays the six thinking hats and the meaning of each colour/hat.


  • The facilitator should decide on the problem situation that will be discussed.
  • If it will be necessary to divide the large group into smaller groups, the facilitator should decide how they will be allocated, and ensure that each group has a physical space (e.g. a table) for their discussion, or (for online workshops) a virtual breakout room.
  • The facilitator should familiarise themselves with the Six Thinking Hats approach, if they will be moderating the discussion for the entire group. If the participants will be allocated to smaller groups, the moderator for each small group should also familiarise themselves with the Six Thinking Hats approach before the workshop.  
  • A visual summary of the six hats, and the meaning of each colour, should be prepared. (Example: Here)

Step 1

The facilitator should start by explaining the objective of the exercise, namely to help participants learn how to think, as opposed to making them decide what to think. They should be prepared to explore different thinking styles, so that they can be exposed to different perspectives – rather than trying to find a single ‘right’ solution.

Step 2

The facilitator then shows the visual summary (poster/slide/infographic) of the six thinking hats, and explains the meaning of each hat. The meanings of the individual hats are explained here, and can be summarised as follows:

  • BLUE Hat: "The Big Picture; Facilitating the Discussion”
  • WHITE hat: "Facts & Information"
  • RED hat: "Feelings or Emotions"
  • BLACK hat: “Risk-aware and Negative”
  • YELLOW hat: “Idealistic and Positive”
  • GREEN hat: “Innovation and New Ideas”

Step 3

The facilitator explains that the participants will all have the opportunity to mentally ‘wear’ different hats.  The moderator of each small group (if smaller groups will be necessary) will wear the blue hat, to coordinate the thinking process.

The participants should be prepared to take notes of their own thinking and ideas, and should also take note of which hat they wore when they had a particular idea. This can be useful for their own reflection at the end of the exercise.

Step 4

They participants are allocated to smaller sub-groups, if this is necessary. (Online version: Participants navigate to online breakout rooms).

  • Each group is assigned a particular hat to all ‘wear’, together, as they consider the problem situation. They discuss the issue in detail wearing only that hat. They then return to the large group, and report their key thoughts back to the other groups. The workshop facilitator then points out how the process of wearing a specific ‘hat’ prompted them to approach the problem situation in a particular way, in their small groups. Then, by listening to the feedback from other small groups (who wore other coloured hats) the entire workshop cohort generates a multi-perspective understanding of the problem, consisting of multiple, valuable viewpoints.


  • Each small group has to collectively wear one hat at a time, but for shorter periods. They rotate the colour of the hat, one after the other. For example: They start by discussing the situation by all wearing the white hat, then move on to a phase where all are wearing the yellow hat, then the black hat, etc. At the end, the small group reflects on how the exercise helped them to consider the problem situation from different viewpoints. The session is concluded by the group reflecting on how the exercise helped them to think collaboratively, as they took the time to consider the issue from one angle at a time.
  • For both options, the participants should be aware of the time limitation, and the exercise moderator (i.e. the person wearing the blue hat) should ensure that different group members have the opportunity to participate in the discussion.
  • It is helpful for each group to be able to see the visual summary (e.g. poster) displaying the hats at all times, as a reminder of the meaning of each hat.
  • As some participants may be colour-blind, clear text should accompany the above-mentioned visual summary.
  • During the final, reflection phase, the participants can also be encouraged to consider which hat was most difficult for them to ‘wear’, and which they found easiest. This could reveal more about their personal approach to problem-solving, which can contribute to their self-awareness.

The Six Thinking Hats technique developed from the book (of the same title) written by Dr. Edward de Bono. (See: Citation below). The above guidelines were developed by the database contributors and draws on their own practical experience of workshop facilitation, as well as the following resources:

  • De Bono, E. (1985). Six thinking hats. Toronto, Ont: Key Porter Books.
  • DeBono, Edward (1999) Six Thinking Hats: An Essential Approach to Business Management, Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.
  • De Bono Group. (2019). Six Thinking Hats. Retrieved on 15 November 2022 from  


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