Friday, August 12, 2011

Understanding the Nine Thinking Hats

I realize there are just Six Thinking Hats, but it has occurred to me that three of the hats actually have dual functions. It has also occurred to me that students might catch on quicker if each of the functions of the dual hats are taught separately.

While the white, yellow and black hats all have one basic function, it seems to me the red, blue, and green hats have dual functions that are quite dissimilar.

Let's take the red hat first, which deals with feelings and emotions. One part of the thinking process might be to get everyone to express their feelings about an idea. Yet the red hat is also a decision-making hat when used with intuition and gut instinct when sorting alternatives.  Six Thinking Hats facilitators first need to understand the emotions of the people in the room and this function of the red hat seems to be distinctly different from the "red hat sorting" (based on intuition or gut feeling) that occurs when we need to sort alternatives based on what choice offers the quickest results, is the easiest to implement, or provides the most long-term benefits.

When teaching hats, the red hat function of checking the emotions of everyone in the room should be introduced first and very early in the process. Only after the students have been introduced to the green hat (which represents a search for alternatives) should the second function of the red hat (to sort these ideas and select which ones to examine first) be introduced.

Likewise with the green hat. Students easily lean that the green hat is used to create alternatives, but it also has the critical function of fixing black hat concerns. We should first teach the green hat function of  searching for alternatives, and only after the black hat (which is concerned with risks and potential problems) has been taught, we should reintroduce the green hat and explain its second function, which is to address black hat problems.

Lastly, the blue hat is the organizational hat that controls thinking, sets the agenda, and monitors the process. After all of the hats have been introduced, we should then go back and explain the blue hat's additional function of drawing conclusions.

I think that teaching the red, blue, and green hats in this way will make it much easier for the student to learn all of the hats' functions. I would be interested in receiving feedback from anyone who has taught hats or been trained by a certified instructor as to whether they think this would facilitate the learning process.

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posted by Bob Fischer at

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