Relationship of Six Thinking Hats and KAI

David Tanner

How does KAI mesh with the Edward de Bono Six Thinking Hats framework?
For those unfamiliar with the Six Thinking Hats, this is a framework to think through a subject in a focused way that makes time and space for creative thinking. It is used extensively in companies such as Dupont, IBM, British Airways and Prudential Life to have efficient, productive meetings. Each hat represents a different dimension in thinking. Everyone wears the same hat at the same time. The underlying principle is parallel thinking rather than argument.

The WHITE HAT deals with information, the RED HAT with feelings, the BLACK HAT with cautions, the YELLOW HAT with benefits, the GREEN HAT with creative ideas, and the BLUE HAT with thinking about the thinking process. In my experience, the Six Thinking Hat framework works best with a mixed group of participants who range from highly adaptive to highly innovative on the KAI inventory scale. The reason is that regardless of the hat the group is wearing there is a more balanced input to the thinking process.
As expected, adaptors tend to express viewpoints consistent with existing structures and systems while innovators generate less conventional views. For example, in yellow hat thinking on a proposal, adaptors generally contribute important thoughts on the more obvious benefits while innovators consider the proposal from different angles, contributing less obvious thoughts. In green hat thinking innovators generate more unusual ideas and concepts while adaptors contribute good ideas, but within more standard thought patterns. In blue hat thinking adaptors are more comfortable and are the ones to summarise output of the session in an orderly way.

During the discussion, adaptors usually follow the rules of parallel thinking, while innovators soften stray and require reminders. Generally, adaptors and innovators contribute equally to the successful output of the Six Thinking Hat process.

David Tanner, President, Tanner & Associates Inc. and Executive Director, Edward de Bono International Creative Forum.
Originally published in KAI News 1994