Six Thinking Hats

I just finished reading Six Thinking Hats. Originally published in 1985 by Edward De Bono. According to Wikipedia:

Edward de Bono (born 19 May 1933) is a Maltese physician, psychologist, author, inventor and consultant. He originated the term lateral thinking, wrote the book Six Thinking Hats and is a proponent of the teaching of thinking as a subject in schools.

My copy of the book was an orange penguin classic. Big shoes to fill. I saw it on the shelves of the psychology section of a large bookstore in the inner city. Just from the title, I knew what it was about. Even so, I felt that I ought to read it anyway because that message was worth knowing in detail.

Having read it I would say that the idea itself is 4.5 stars. The book maybe 3 stars. It had a bit too much fluff for my taste.

The book has a central thesis or premise besides the six thinking hats themselves. It’s that in our normal everyday thinking, we cobble together different types (or directions) of thinking. And it is ineffective or even self-defeating. The specific term he repeatedly used was that the mind can only be “sensitised” in one direction at a time.

What gets me really excited about this is drawing greater power from thinking by using these different directions separately and single-mindedly, in their due turn. Noting the best fruits from each. In doing so building a more balanced mental landscape; one that has the positives, negatives, facts, emotions, new ideas and clear oversight neatly shown. Perhaps even making thinking and decision making like a fun game.

It should be noted that this book was rich in examples (perhaps 40% of the content was examples). I believe without exception the examples were a business or meeting context.

Enter the six thinking hats:

White. Like white printer paper from a computer. The white hat is about information. Objective or empirical facts. You may report the fact that someone stated an opinion but when wearing the white thinking hat you may not state your own opinion, this would be done wearing a different hat.

Red. Passionate like blood. About pure emotion and intuition. State how you are feeling about what is at hand in its raw form, without rationalising about it. What your instinct is beneath thought.

Black. Foreboding, depressing and where bad decisions lead. This is the hat of cautious, negative thinking. In other words fear, anxiety and pain: avoidance oriented. Of seeing the fault in ideas or arguments. The downside.

Yellow. Sunny and golden. The hat of hope. The bright side. Seeing the potential benefits or positive reasons for doing something. Seeing the good things about a proposal.

Green. Seeds and new growth. This is the hat of creativity, innovation and lateral thinking. “Off the wall” ideas are encouraged here. You can put on this hat when you need to come up with something new.

Blue. The blue sky. The hat of overview and control. Asking the right questions, summoning the right hats when necessary. The blue hat is what must chair the other hats, frame and direct the thinking. Perhaps it’s like the executive functioning mind?


I’m excited about being able to look at projects that I’m struggling on with each thinking hat independently. This is a highly unintuitive thing to do but to me doing so seems inherently powerful. A crucial step towards that ever-illusive control of one’s own mind. In particular, like most people I have the habit of letting cautious or emotional thinking in the moment ultimately control me. This is what we evolved to do because cautious or first glance thinking was statistically safer. However, this is no longer particularly useful, is it? If yellow, white, green or blue hat thinking got a chance to examine a situation as well, then there’d be a mindset that was superhuman in its intelligence. A chance to view things in a different light.

Jazz Clubs for the Rational Soul

I love the idea of jazz clubs. A neat little place you can go and just soak in the vibes, alone and without an invite if necessary. Enjoying the music. Right? Wrong. Well, right for some people and wrong for some people. Or is it? Let me tell you a story.
I’ve been to jazz clubs a few times. I’ve never much enjoyed it yet I cling to the idea of it and insist on going anyway, perhaps because I’m outlandishly open to experience. Some people easily find their flow there I assume. They find the music itself is easy to be lost in. The society is agreeable and soothing. I have found that most often people at jazz gigs are themselves musicians in some degree. I myself can play the piano (self-taught). Music is by no means my strongest intelligence or interest though, learning it was an uphill climb and playing it soon gets tiresome. For someone with a literary or logical bend live music can really suck. Basically I just end up in my head trying different things to figure out how to enjoy it and fit in to no avail, and also reasoning whether that is indeed the optimal thing to aim for, meanwhile the music is happening and I’m not enjoying it all and perhaps harshing the vibes for other people too. Today though I went to a jazz gig and had a shit time as usual, but acutally had a series of cognitions and realisations which by the end of it had me enlightened about all such enquiry and most importantly: in flow.
I arrived expecting to join a Meetup but never actually found it. It was a beautiful yet narrow little place, cozy yet well ventilated – and right near my house. Rich wooden and red brick interior. Authentic feel. Nice courtyard with gorgeous summer weather and mysterious upper levels. I ordered a bowl of salt and vinegar crisps and a jasmine tea from the annoyingly grumpy yet pretty and forgiveable barmaid. Some middle-aged guy in a party shirt came up to me and got all in my space whilst welcoming me. He had a lot going on with the pores and everything on his face, it was a bit overwhelming and I’d need to see a photo to be sure. I thought it was awkward of him and perhaps he had autism, but he turned out either to be the owner or at least the ranking musician in the room. At this moment my best guess about why he was communicating in such a way was to assert a certain vibe or culture which he didn’t feel I was yet beholden enough to. He wanted me to react more and my state of being to include his reality more. He notified me that everyone in the room was a musician and to go to him if I needed anything. Basically I received the message that he was the boss.
The music started. I enjoy the first song, or rather I continued to enjoy life in spite of the first song. Actually I did like the music itself, very tasteful – it’s just the social pressure that can put you off soemtimes. The boss was on the piano. There were two young blokes on drums and bass respectively. I thought it was pretty funny that the guy was dominating the room so much. I also had the sense that leadership made it a tribe, and it’s always nice to have a tribe to go to. So I appreciated it despite finding it pretty obnoxious the way he was engaging eye contact with every single person in the room and talking freely whilst playing in a jazz trio. After about 5 seconds I pigeonholed him as a narcissist. Aren’t we all these days, though. 2 minutes in I identified him as being an ESFP. Truthfully I don’t know for sure but on the other hand I just know – I’m pretty damn sure. Something I read about ESFP’s recently: that they wanted nothing more than to be the host of a party and make everyone have a good time. That they have an intelligence for style and decorating.
I felt a discord between us and soon realised that he could tell I wasn’t getting into it and that he was trying to create a certain vibe in the room. It blows my mind that some people are just intuitively like that, it seems about as difficult as conducting a sympthony to me. I’m grateful that some people are though, it’s a valuable quality to have. Maybe I’ll give one a job creating vibes and being the centre of attention some day in part of my plan which occured through cognition. I wonder if he’s grateful for people that intuitively navigate the ideas that underpin society on every level or thinks we’re squares who ruin the vibes. In my own head (which is where I usually am) I reminded myself to sit up straight and release muscular tension. More than anything else this was so I didn’t stand out and to get more in flow, those are inseparable though in a jazz club aren’t they? Anyway that’s the first thing to do if you’re in a jazz club and not finding your flow: sit comfortably, up straight and release any muscular tension if you can.
After about the third song the host guy dropped some knowledge to the room. Interestingly my mind instantly seized upon that much more naturally than his piano playing. The advice was: “just listen to the bass line and you can’t go wrong”. Good to know. I still don’t know if he was talking about one specific song or jazz in general but I like the advice. The bass is a nice uncomplicated, comfortable sound. Like a pillow. I enjoyed it much more after that.
My third and final realisation was that these people were here for the vibes, the sensualness. Sitting down analysing for 30 minutes isn’t going to win you any friends. One thing I know about the emotional dimension of life is that a smidgen of love is a safe bet, almost always a good thing. It takes the edge off around people. It brings down the walls. That coziness and openness is part of the vision that guy had for the shared experience of the room, that’s what he was trying to create and I’m glad someone had a vision for it. Lesson learned. Situation understood. Goal defined. Enlist intellect to achieve higher oxytocin levels. Plan obtained: brief loving-kindness meditation focusing on feeling love and kindness for people in the room. Feelings of abundance, comfort and openness ensue. Self-consciousness subsides and mind quitens. People look at me more welcomingly, feeling greater rapport. Value in the room increases and waitresses seem to orbit around me. Enjoying the experience and drifting in and out of listening to baseline, getting lost in it. Seeing the trio as another man might and “getting it”. Feels natural to smile, sometimes alone and sometimes towards someone. Smiling in a jazz club is not a common thing by any means but stony faced revellers instantly light up when you do it to them and it’s inseparable from enjoying oneself. Felt like I was getting drunk on the experience of being in the room, intoxated. I left after the gig feeling like a new man. Newly creative, newly social, newly enlightened to different flavours and collaborations of personhood. Fresh off of a shared and open communal, musical, sunday afternoon experience.
So there you have it, three brief points of engagement to find your flow and enjoy a jazz gig:
1) Sit comfortably and release tension in muscles
2) When in doubt listen to baseline
3) A minute of loving kindness and a few smiles