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The Fertile Mind of Edward de Bono

The Green Hat Fits

Without a doubt, one of the most fertile minds in personal and management effectiveness of the late Twentieth Century is Edward de Bono.  His almost constant stream of books about thinking skills (approaching 60 to date – the latest is Think!: Before It’s Too Late) has provided insight, provocation, practical skills and frustrating verbiage by turns.  The fact is that I’m a sucker for his books and have 17 on my shelf.  Many have inspired me.

Green is One of Six

Perhaps de Bono’s two most famous titles are The Use of Lateral Thinking (1967 – and the several similar follow-up titles) and Six Thinking Hats(1985).

Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats is the one I frequently return to – both in my own thinking and in offering it as a valuable tool to workshop participants.  In a nutshell, de Bono advocates deploying different thinking modes to examine an issue, consider a decision or work on a problem from different points of view.

The Green Hat – Creativity

Put this on to think innovatively, creatively, and from a new perspective.

Yellow Hat – Positive

Put this on to think constructively, develop ideas, identify benefits and find practical ways to implement them.

Black Hat – Judgement

Put this on to evaluate risks, downsides and problems with an idea and evaluate it critically to protect us from mistakes.

White Hat – Factual

Put this on to focus on facts, evidence and logical analysis of the situation.

Red Hat – Feeling

Put this on for one of two reasons: to think intuitively and also to use your emotional response to generate and evaluate ideas.

Blue Hat – Process

Put this on to direct your team’s and your own thinking process; to provide an orderly structure for problem-solving, decision-making and evaluation, using all of the hats to see the topic in all possible ways.

The Thinking Hats Controversy

I don’t want to take sides: I don’t have a basis to do so.  But it is worth noting that Dr Michael Hewitt-Gleeson puts forward a case that the idea was developed not by de Bono, but by the directors of The Edward de Bono School of Thinking Inc – now defunct – but which Hewitt-Gleeson argues is the predecessor of his own School of Thinking.

What I do agree with Hewitt-Gleeson on is his rather lovely suggestion for a seventh hat.

The Grey Hat

Hewitt-Gleeson proposes a Grey Thinking Hat for Wisdom and I love the idea.  In his words:

Grey Hat Thinking is the ability to see consequences, immediate, short term and long term. It is the ability to look back over history and to see forward into the future. To understand cycles, passages of time, the passing of fashions, eras, eons and the many possible futures including extinction, the possibility of no future at all.

‘Grey Hat Thinking also means the wisdom to see other points of view. It includes the sagacity of patience to see beyond one’s own immediate viewpoint and the wisdom to see the viewpoints of others involved in situations: your partner’s viewpoint, your children’s, your children’s children, your neighbour’s, your customer’s, your enemy’s.’

From School of Thinking: Seventh Hat for Wisdom

Wisdom is a topic of great interest to me and, from now on, I intend to add The Grey Hat to my descriptions and credit it clearly.

Grey Thinking Hat of Wisdom

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