Solving Crazy Meetings: “Six Thinking Hats” Will Save the Day

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Crazy Meetings

Are you recently promoted to a new administrative post with an unruly mob struggling for control at meetings? You are trying to ride that angry community horse as others shoot darts and struggle for recognition? Is your brain feeling like cold, leftover spaghetti after every meeting?

This brief note describes a resource you must immediately read if you ever find yourself in that unbearable predicament: Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono MD, is your ticket to freedom and meeting fun.

de Bono's Venice

A comment here by Dr de Bono regarding his own view of Six Thinking Hats:

“In terms of how widely it has been adopted, I'm most proud of the concept of parallel thinking known as the Six Hats. This system moves people away from the traditional argument and debate style of thinking to a more efficient model. Recently, at a big innovation meeting, someone came up to me who runs all the fisheries and marine biology in Australia. He said, “We used to have terrible meetings, full of arguments and egos, but using the Six Hats we've had the best meetings we've ever had. – In the United States, a number of states are now running pilot projects in which juries are trained in the Six Hats, because it allows them to examine evidence more objectively.”

Go over to this link and just listen for a moment to Edward talk about: The Way the Mind Works and Creativity.

Great Memories:
I had the privilege working with de Bono as a “Guest Consultant” many years ago ['93] for a most memorable day at H Ross Perot's old offices in Electronic Data Systems, in Dallas. de Bono was asked to talk about Creativity and Lateral Thinking with the senior EDS team as they addressed issues with their development of new tech applications for several projects.

During that interesting day, Edward, a person who loves new words and concepts, did take a moment to ask me to comment about two of my favorite words at the time, synesthetic and diacritic, and we had some fun with how reductionistic thinking can trap creativity in almost any context.

If you just take a brief look at his bio you will see why I so much enjoyed listening to de Bono on this life-changing consultation:

Bio below:

Nominated for the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2005, Edward de Bono is regarded by many as the leading authority in the field of creative thinking, innovation and the direct teaching of thinking as a skill. He is equally renowned for his development of the Six Thinking Hats technique and the Direct Attention Thinking Tools.

He is the originator of the concept of Lateral Thinking, which is now part of language and is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. Dr. de Bono was born in Malta. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, holds an MA in psychology and physiology from Oxford, a D. Phil. in Medicine and also a Ph.D. from Cambridge.

He has held faculty appointments at the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, London and Harvard. Dr. de Bono's background in self-organizing systems led him to derive an understanding which he then applied to the neural networks of the brain (see The Mechanism of Mind 1969 – Penguin books).

He has written 67 books with translations into 38 languages and has been invited to lecture in 57 countries.

A very brief summary on the Hats, just to give you hint on the contents:

White Hat- State the facts
Red Hat- State the emotions
Black Hat- State the negative aspects
Yellow Hat- State the positive aspects
Green Hat- Think creatively (outside the box)
Blue Hat- Think about thinking

Do run over, if you have a moment and listen to the rest of Edwards excerpts on the link above – it will be time well spent.

And you can be done with Crazy Meetings!


  1. Jen,
    The “Hats” concept must have occurred in the context of his years of “Green Hat” thinking, creativity training sessions.

    -And any of us that have been in any meetings have witnessed the whole emphasis and mission of the meeting lost on the “Black Hat” thinking of only one or two participants. This “Hat” concept is a tool for the meeting leader to keep the meeting on track, and respect the various hats, yet simultaneously move forward with meeting objectives.

    Yes, you are exactly right, it gives everyone in the meeting an opportunity to explore and take responsibility for the meeting “process,” rather than remain lost in their own, often emotionally laden, “content.”

  2. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of the 6 Thinking Hats concept and it’s absolutely fascinating. It makes me wonder how he came up with the whole thing in the first place. I would have to check out the link later but from the basics, it seems that this method allows a person to remove himself from his own shoes and look at his situation from a less involved and less attached angle. Of course, I might be totally wrong. But I’ll check it out anyway.

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