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Problem Solving and Decision-Making Skills

Decision Making Diagram

Decision Making Diagram

“Six Hat Thinking” is a problem analysis and decision-making technique developed by the management writer Edward de Bono.  The methodology for six-hat thinking is shown in summary form in the decision making diagram shown here.

The six-hat thinking technique allows you to look at problems from a number of different perspectives by forcing you to move outside your habitual ways of thinking. As such, it helps you understand the full complexity of the problem, and spot issues and opportunities to which you might otherwise be blind.

Six Hat Thinking offers six ways of thinking, with the idea being that you look at possible decisions about a problem wearing only one hat a time. The six ways of thinking are:

  1. White Hat – like a computer so the emphasis here is on facts and figures with questions like: What are the facts here? what data do we have?, can we measure this in figures? etc
  2. Red Hat – like an emotional barometer so the emphasis here is on the emotional viewpoint of an individual or a group with questions like: What’s our gut reaction?  Who is happy or sad about this? How do you feel about this? etc
  3. Black Hat – like gloom so the emphasis here is on pessimism or playing the “devil’s advocate” with questions like: Why can’t we do this?  What could go wrong here?  What’s the downside? etc.
  4. Yellow Hat – like sunshine so the emphasis here is on the positive or optimistic side of things with questions like: How can we do this? What would happen if everything went well? What if we just did this quickly? etc
  5. Green Hat –like growth, so the emphasis here is on the creative or innovative side of things with questions like:  What are additional opportunities?, What have we missed? How is this connected to other issues or challenges we have? etc
  6. Blue Hat – like the sky, so the emphasis here is on detachment (unconstrained thinking) and then on how things might be organized, with questions like: How should we think about this? (what are the metaphors or mental models), What is possible here? How might this change we ways we do things at a higher level? Etc.
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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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