What is the colour of your thinking hat?

Edward de bono hats

Excellent problem solving skills are crucial in our daily lives. In the new fast-paced, competitive, digital society young people are required to tackle problems quickly and effectively in order to succeed in the workplace, business or learning environment.

Since we all approach our problems differently depending on context, situation and resources,  psychologist Edward de Bono categorised our strategies into 6 thinking hats.

What’s your thinking hat today?

Everyday we face a variety of problems and challenges to solve. How quickly and effectively we deal with them is a prerequisite of how quickly and effectively we learn and progress.

We may all agree with this wisdom but on many occasions when faced with a problem we tend to get afraid and uncomfortable wishing with all our heart that the problem will go away, feel pressurized to come up with an answer straight away or we simply look for someone to blame.

If you are like myself working directly with young people, you will see those tendencies even more clearer in the classroom environment where constantly young people are being challenged to get out of their comfort zone.

Interestingly, the results of a 2012 PISA survey show that a large proportion of 15 year- olds still lack basic problem-solving skills across Europe. However, one of the conclusions also points out that us as teachers, educators, and advisors are the ones who make a difference in imparting problem-solving skills from an early age.


As with all complex human abilities, a vast amount of research has been done on problem solving skills. Personally, I feel that Edward de Bono made it simpler and more practical for us!

He identified 6 types of approaches of solving problems that are known as Thinking Hats. Why such a term? Thinking refers to the tendency to concentrate on a certain aspect of the problem while hat indicates that we change it depending on the context we are in or even our mood.

The 6 thinking hats are as follows:

  • White – focuses on facts and objective information available
  • Red – concentrates on emotions, relationships, hunches and intuition
  • Black – adopts the negative view of all problems and risks possible, it is judgmental and critical
  • Yellow – adopts the positive view of all benefits and opportunities, it is optimistic and hopeful
  • Green – induces creative thinking, new ideas and possibilities
  • Blue – takes control of steps, actions and processes

It is important to note that Edward de Bono stresses that one hat is not better than any other but rather all hats are crucial in a successful problem solving process.


After introducing this concept to young people, ask them to imagine that those approaches are their hats that are within their wardrobe of “thinking choices”

Then, to increase the effectiveness of problem solving skills, ask young people to consider using different hats when approaching a problem.

This could be even done in stages trying all hats one by one:

STEP 1: List all the facts related to the encountered problem (WHITE)
STEP 2: Brainstorm potential ideas of handling it (GREEN)
STEP 3: Evaluate your ideas by listing their benefits (YELLOW) and drawbacks (BLACK)
STEP 4: Reflect on everyone’s feelings about the solutions (RED)
STEP 5: Summarize all the findings and create an action plan (BLUE)

The important aspect of this exercise is for young people to adopt the variety of thinking hats even if they are not their usual, preferred ones. This is necessary in order to stretch their perspective and improve the flexibility of their problem solving skills.

Written by K Mitura. Find out more: Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono.

Image credit:  Ian/Ozjoe.com

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