Change your hat, change your thinking

19th October 2020

I think we could all be forgiven right now, if we find ourselves getting trapped in that downward spiral of negative thinking. With so much bad and sad news around it’s easy to get drawn into that rabbit hole and get lost in the doom and gloom of it all.

Anyone that knows me will know that I’m a bit of a critic. ‘Always look on the bright side’ stuff just doesn’t feel helpful when I’m experiencing something that’s tough. There’s no doubt that what lots of people are experiencing right now IS tough. As intelligent human beings we all know that the incessant chatter of negative thinking does nothing to help us navigate the tough times.

I’ve been using this idea for myself and with clients just lately. It’s a neat way of giving yourself permission to look on the downside (it can be nice to wallow for a little bit) but it’s also a way of enabling us to think from a range of angles.

It’s an idea created by Edward de Bono and it’s a way of changing your thinking by wearing a range of different thinking hats.  The six hats represent six differing perspectives, encouraging you to explore a situation from all angles.

Black hat thinking – this is permission to look for all the negatives.

Yellow hat thinking – time to look for all the positives out there.

White hat thinking – encouraging you to explore the facts and what you know to be true.

Red hat thinking – a chance to think about how you feel about what’s happening.

Blue hat thinking – an opportunity to look at the wider picture.

Green hat thinking – a chance to think creatively and look for new ideas & solutions.

The six thinking hats in action

There’s so many ways that you could use this idea!

  1. Find your go-to hat

You might start by noticing whether there’s one or a couple of the hats that you tend to wear more often. I know with me and my worry gene, I can easily spend too long in the well-worn tatty old black hat. My own yellow hat can get very dusty when I’m struggling with stuff!!

Knowing your go-to hat enables you to call time on yourself so that you don’t spend too long in one mode of thinking!

2. Change the hat – change the thinking

If you find yourself getting stuck in one mode of thinking, make yourself wear each of the hats in turn. You could set yourself a time limit for each hat and be sure to move on when the timer goes!

3. Be prepared to go rogue

You’ll see that the thinking styles go in pairs. If like me you can get stuck in black hat thinking; be sure to make time for looking for the positives, using some yellow hat.

The fact and information focus on white hat thinking is a great counter balance to the emotions and feelings of red hat thinking.

And lastly. The big picture focus of blue hat thinking can be a great precursor to some good quality creative thinking that comes with the green hat.

Forcing yourself to ‘go rogue’ and look at things from all angles, albeit ones that aren’t your usual style can help manage feelings of anxiety and worry around problems that are keeping you stuck.

Using the idea of the thinking hats can help you to;

  • Review what’s really going on
  • Explore alternatives and find new, more creative ways of solving the problems in front of you
  • Make better, more considered decisions on what you want to do next.

It’s a great tool to use for yourself, when you need a framework to process your thinking.

It’s also a great tool to do as part of a team, when you get stuck. It gives you some great language to use to spot when colleagues get overly fixated on one perspective and it’s a brilliant way of structuring brainstorming or problem solving sessions.

I’ve done a “Six Hats, Six Ways” cheat sheet, outlining some practical ways you can use this either for yourself or your team.

If you’d like a copy of my please feel free to get in touch.