Thinking Hats

Thinking Hats help you to see all sides of an idea. With five colored hats you shape your idea better and clearer. Each color stands for a specific way of thinking, from optimistic to pessimistic. By wearing the “hats” mentally you can easily focus or redirect thoughts. With a complete view on the idea you can better assess the value of your idea.
1 hour
Target group

Tips for use

You can use the Thinking Hats in two ways; by yourself or in a group setting which may be more fruitful. To let the Thinking Hats come to life it is fun to wear actual colored hats. 

Use the Thinking Hats template to make a large printout. Use this printout to do an analysis on your idea or brainstorm with others. Have a look at the example of the innovative Bakery Alink to see how they have used the Thinking Hats. 

How to use

There are 5 colored hats: 

  • The White Hat stands for information known about the idea. With this hat you write down only facts about the idea.  
  • The Yellow Hat symbolizes brightness and optimism. Under this hat you explore why the idea will work. You probe for value and benefit.
  • The Black Hat is judgment. Spot the difficulties and dangers; where the idea might not work. Warning: do not overuse this hat. 
  • The Red Hat signifies feelings, hunches and intuition. You can share fears, likes, dislikes, loves, and hates.
  • The Green Hat focuses on the possibilities, alternatives, and new ideas. You can express new concepts and new perceptions.

Thinking Hats for yourself

This will help you to structure your own thoughts. Each hat stands for a specific way of thinking. At every box on the template you wear the corresponding hat and write down your thoughts. This helps you to look at your idea from different angles. You can use the filled in Thinking Hats Canvas to communicate your idea to others. You can also use it to get a first impression about your idea, and evaluate if your idea has more benefits or more issues. 

Thinking Hats in a group setting

In a group conversation or discussion, the Thinking Hats help everyone to look from the same direction at the same time. The discussion will be more focused and the group tends to be more collaborative. In a group setting a sixth colored hat is introduced: 

  • The Blue Hat is used to manage the thinking process. It helps you to structure how the meeting will be conducted. 

The steps in using Thinking Hats in a group setting are:

  • The group will start with the Blue Hat. Discuss how the meeting will be conducted and develop the goals. 
  • Next is the White Hat. Describe the idea just with the facts. What is it and how does it work? This will give everybody a clear image of the idea. 
  • Continue with the Yellow Hat and the Black Hat. Explore the value and the difficulties of the idea. 
  • The Red Hat is used to collect opinions and reactions to the idea. 
  • The last hat is the Green Hat. Use this to think of other ideas or solutions. 

Write down the main points and conclusions on the Thinking Hats template.