Bono's hats

Bono's Hats

Brainstorming and stimulating creativity in groups


Bono's 6 Hats method is an excellent process for :

  • Stimulate creativity in groups (more powerful than a "classic brainstorm") to solve a problem or envision a common project.
  • Separate different thoughts and emotions (sequencing) to gain efficiency.
  • Allow everyone to broaden their view by adopting the different hats and their roles.
  • Use lateral thinking to avoid jumping from one topic to another.


Edward de Bono (1933- ) is a Maltese psychologist and physician, a specialist in cognitive science, and a consultant to major corporations and governments. From his practice he derived lateral thinking and the 6 Bono Hats.

Lateral thinking is a way of directing and staying focused. This method directs thought, acts as a springboard to other ideas and helps innovation.

The strength of this process is that it provides the group with security and comfort so that imagination and creativity can flourish. In a meeting or workshop, each of the participants "puts on" different coloured hats (i.e. a way of thinking) when invited.

The 6 hats of reflection :

NEUTRALITY: Facts only, objectivity

OPTIMISM: Optimistic judgements, hopes, benefits

JUDGMENT: Criticism, strengths, weaknesses

PROCESS: Step back; introduce, conclude, judge method, assign roles and point directions


EMOTIONS: Perspective, emotions, intuitions, feelings


1. How to facilitate a group facilitation with Bono Hats?

1.1 Logistics:

  • A quiet, pleasant place to allow a circle to form.

1.2 Materials:

  • 6 hats of the colours shown or 6 cards showing the different hats.
  • 1 talking stick (tennis ball, felt, object that symbolises the amount of time the individual has to speak).

1.3 Number of participants :

  • 1 facilitator.
  • 6 to 9 participants.

If there are more participants, some can take on the role of time keeper, or be observers, one per hat for example, or scribe.

1.4 Overall duration :

  • 6 people - 1 hour
  • 9 people - 1 hour 30 minutes

1.5 Rules to be set by the facilitator at the start of the workshop:

  • Benevolence.
  • Respect for others:

Availability is imperative (no telephone, emails or other disturbances).

Respect the time for reflection (1').

Each participant must speak within the allotted time without risk of being interrupted or contradicted afterwards.

  • Respect the colour of the hat.
  • Stay focused on the objective.

1.6 Process:

De Bono proposes to divide the search for solutions into 6 distinct phases, each represented by a coloured hat that symbolises a given way of thinking. The facilitator states the intention of the workshop, invites the participants to put on their hats, and guides the reflection with questions. Under each hat, each person has 1 minute to speak, and speaks at least once, at most twice, hence the importance of using the talking stick.

The speaking time is transmitted from one participant to another symbolically by the talking stick.

The order of speaking is not compulsory, but the following organisation is recommended:

FACTS, neutrality

The facilitator invites the participants to state facts, objective information, figures, which characterise the situation.

Example of a question to ask:

  • What are the facts and figures?
  • What information do we have? What information are we missing?

EMOTIONS, intuitions

The facilitator invites each of the participants to report their emotions, feelings, intuitions and hunches, without justifying themselves to the others.

Example of a question to ask:

  • What do you feel here and now?
  • What is your intuition for the future?

JUDGEMENT, risks and negative criticism

The facilitator invites the participants to reflect on the risks, dangers, disadvantages and difficulties. Example of a question to ask:

  • What are the shortcomings, the weaknesses?
  • What are the risks, negative effects, disadvantages?
  • What should we be careful about? What are the obstacles, the dangers? - In the worst case, what could happen?
  • Why do you think it will not work?

OPTIMISM, positive criticism

The facilitator invites the participants to take a positive view.

Example of a question to ask:

  • What are the benefits, value, advantages of this idea?
  • What are our strengths? What is working well?
  • What are the opportunities? What benefits can it bring us? - Ideally, what positive effects can we expect in the long term?
  • What could it enable us to do, to achieve?


The facilitator invites the participants to look for creative, off the beaten track, even provocative solutions.

Example of a question to ask:

  • How can we do things differently?
  • What new ideas, what alternatives?
  • What would be the possible solutions, including the most far-fetched?

PROCESS, organisation of thought

The facilitator channels the ideas and exchanges them; he/she gives the final summary.

Example of a question to ask:

  • Where have we arrived?
  • What are the main points that have been made?
  • What do we retain from this sequence? What conclusions can be drawn?
  • What is the solution to be retained? What are the priorities?
  • How can we organise its implementation? What action plan should we follow?
  • Do we all agree with this conclusion?

2. Example of an exercise

The All for You mutual insurance company has a Social Affairs department. The actions carried out are collective. The role of this department is to develop projects, have them validated by the "Institutions " and set them up in the form of campaigns: Organise information campaigns on diabetes and the dietary measures to be implemented on a daily basis, or eating well, moving well and sleeping well.

The mutual insurance company TOUT à VOUS has just bought another mutual insurance company UN POUR TOUS ET TOUS POUR UN. The latter also has a Social Affairs department which only handles individual requests. For example: "I need to adapt my bathroom because I have more and more difficulty moving around" or "I have serious gum problems and this will lead to the loss of all my teeth. This treatment is very expensive (... euros). Social security does not pay for gum treatment, so the health insurance company cannot cover it. Can you help me to finance this treatment?”

The two teams will be reunited and working together on the same set in a few weeks. The director of the service would like to work with his team on solutions to integrate and really "merge" the two services.

The facilitator defines the framework, the timing for 9 people and reminds them of the rules of operation for this collaborative moment.

He reminds them of the intention of the workshop: "to think about how the two departments can work together and form a single department".

Examples of what could come out of each hat:

FACTS, neutrality

There are 18 of us on one side and 12 on the other.

There are 4 duplicates.

The teams are physically in different locations.

EMOTIONS, intuitions

I have the conviction that it can work

I feel a lot of enthusiasm for the proposals of ....

I fear that my job will disappear

I am anxious that I might be asked to move


Why form one team when we don't do the same job?  Everyone goes home! They'll be there, but everyone will do their job as they've always done it.

OPTIMISM, positive criticism

On the face of it, they don't do the same thing, but we can see this rapprochement as a plus that we offer our members.

We will discover new people.

We will be able to share our ways of doing things


In any case, we can manage to get together, it could be fun, we could get the group to do an activity together? For example, a tree climbing activity, collaborative games, each one needing the other, cooking together followed by a tasting in a convivial place, are there other approaches?

PROCESS, organisation of thought

He concludes.