The Four Thinking Hats
The Rushing CenterFurman University
Herrmann Brain Dominance Index
Ned Herrmann (1922-1999),Manager of Management Educationfor GE, conducted research on howto maintain or increase an individual’sproductivity, motivation, and creativitySponsored by GE, he developed and validated theHerrmann Brain Dominance Index (HBDI), a scored and analyzed survey designed to measure an individual’s thinking and learning preferencesThe HBDI is based on a comprehensive four partWhole Brain Model
We All Use All Four Quadrants
But each person willprefercertain quadrants over others – thispreferenceis what the HBDI attempts to measure
“Blue” Quadrant Preference
Gathering Facts Analyzing data Problem solvinglogically Arguing rationally Measuring precisely Understandingtechnical elements
“Green” Quadrant Preference
Approaching problemspractically Reading the fine print indocuments and contracts Organizing & keepingtrack of essential data Developing detailed plansand procedures Articulating plans in anorderly way
“Red” Quadrant Preference
Anticipating how otherswill feel Intuitively understandinghow others feel Picking up on non-verbalcues of interpersonal stress Persuading Conciliating Understanding emotionalelements Considering values
“Yellow” Quadrant Preference
Seeing the big picture Recognizing newpossibilities Integrating new ideasand concepts Bending or challengingestablished policies Synthesizing dissimilarelements into a new whole Problem solving in intuitiveways
Thecolors of the four hatscorrespond to thefourcolors in the Herrmann Brain Dominance Index.We all have the ability to use these four quadrants of our brain – in other words we can all put various color hats on if we want to.If we don’t think about it consciously, we are inclined to wear only one or two of these hats – our preferred quadrant(s) – in our problem-solving.The four hats are a great communication tool to ensure that team members engage all four quadrants – hence we may get some insights we would have otherwise missed!
Four Thinking Hats
The Yellow Hat
When you are wearing youryellow hat,you ask questions like the following:What are thebig picture issueshere?What if ...?Can you create other ways to do this?How could you frame the problem differently?What new ideas can we brainstorm about?What other possibilities for a solution are there?
The Blue Hat
When you are wearing yourblue hat,you ask questions like the following:Who, What, When, Where?What do we know about this issue?What are the most relevant facts about the issue?What additional things do we need or want to know about it?How can weanalyze the informationwe have collected to reach alogical conclusionabout our action/decision?
The Red Hat
When you are wearing yourred hat,you ask questions like the following:What are your feelings on the issue?What action/decision would you prefer based on your feelings?What prejudices are present?What is your hunch about the issues and the discussion under consideration?What is yourgut feelingabout the proposed solutions or action?What does yourintuitiontell you?
The Green Hat
When you are wearing yourgreen hat,you ask questions like the following:What steps are needed to implement the proposed solution or decision?How should these steps be organized?What are the likely road blocks and how can we ensure that they will be handled?What resources do we need and how will we garner them?Can we devise anorganized planto accomplish our agreed upon goal(s)?
A leader can use the four thinking hats tofacilitate better meetings:Solicit different kinds of thinking from everyone. “Okay, let’s all put on our yellow hats for a moment …”Move off a stalled subject (or person) without offense. “Okay, Bob has given us a great green hat summary. Let’s now try examining the issue with our red hats on. Linda, could you get us started? …”Diffuse a tense situation by inserting a little humor at times. “Well, we’ve surely examined the blue hat view thoroughly. Let’s shift hats for a little breather. George ...”The four hats are also a way toencourage participation by everyone, without making anyone uncomfortable.The bottom line is that the four hats can elicitwhole brain thinkingthat a group might otherwise not engage in.
Using the Four Thinking Hats