Included below is a brief description of each of the hats and the thinking processes that they represent. Their use is illustrated by examples from a typical commercial environment.
Blue Hat – The Big Picture
The Blue Hat stands for process control. This is the hat worn by people facilitating meetings or discussions. This hat should be used at the start and end of each thinking session, to set objectives, to define the route to take to get to them, to evaluate where the group has got to, and where the thinking process is going. When running into difficulties because ideas are running dry, they may direct activity into Green Hat thinking. When contingency plans are needed, they will ask for Black Hat thinking, and so on. Having a facilitator maintain this role throughout helps ensure that the group remains focused on task and improves their chances of achieving their objectives.
We'll follow this program of thinking to start the day - does everyone agree?
OK time to move on to some yellow hat thinking
Stop there - you are getting into debate.
Let’s do some black hat and surface all the issues together first
I think we need to revisit our objectives, I'm not sure that they are right in light of our work so far. White Hat – Facts & Information
The White Hat represents a focus on the data available. Look at the information you have, and see what you can learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge, and either try to fill them or take account of them.
This is where you analyze past trends, and try to extrapolate from historical data. In many thinking sessions this occurs immediately after an initial blue hat, and it often an extended action with participants presenting details about their organization and the background to the purpose of the thinking session.
Total sales of this product are $1M
Our sales data is two years old
Energy efficiency legislation is expected to impact our ability to run our business in the next five years
The number of potential retirees in the next 5 years could be 28% of our workforce.
Yellow Hat – Positive Judgment
The yellow hat helps you to think positively. It is the optimistic viewpoint that helps you to see all the benefits of the decision and the value in it, and spot the opportunities that arise from it. Yellow Hat thinking helps you to keep going when everything looks gloomy and difficult.
This is the opposite of black hat thinking and looks for the reasons in favor of something. This is still a matter of judgment - it is an analytical process, not just blind optimism. One is looking to create justified statements in favor. it is encapsulate in the idea of "undecided positive" (whereas the black hat would be skeptical - undecided negative).
The outputs may be statements of the benefits that could be created with a given idea, or positive statements about the likelihood of achieving it or identifying the key supports available that will benefit this course of action
That would be useful in market X
This approach will make our operations more efficient.
We could use our existing distribution channels for this product
That would reduce the environmental impact of our activities.
Black Hat – Critical Judgment
The black hat looks at things pessimistically, cautiously and defensively. Try to see why ideas and approaches might not work. This is important because it highlights the weak points in a plan or course of action. It allows you to eliminate them, alter your approach, or prepare contingency plans to counter problems that arise. It makes your plans tougher and more resilient. Often many successful people get so used to thinking positively that often they cannot see problems in advance, leaving them under-prepared for difficulties.
This hat is usually natural for people to use, the issues with it are that people will tend to use it when it is not requested and when it is not…