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How to use the Six Thinking Hats

A decision-making tool for social entrepreneurs

We know how difficult it is to design and launch new, innovative social enterprises. The business model design process can indeed get quite complicated, as it is unpredictable and iterative by nature. To reduce risks and overcome uncertainties, we are on a mission to provide aspiring social entrepreneurs with useful tools and techniques to succeed in their entrepreneurial journeys. Therefore, this article is dedicated to a technique you’ve probably already heard about: the Six Thinking Hats.

Six Thinking Hats: brief outline

The Six Thinking Hats (6THs) is a brainstorming technique originally created by Edward de Bono. As a matter of fact, De Bono came out in 1985 with a book titled “Six Thinking Hats: An Essential Approach to Business Management“, dedicated to this subject. Ever since then, this technique gained popularity and became widespread.

De Bono’s ultimate goal was to help business practitioners become better thinkers and decision-makers through deliberate role-playing. It is indeed through role-playing that we usually start exploring and analyzing a specific situation from other people’s perspectives. In other words, it helps us leave our habitual thinking style and embrace alternative points of view. Something that proves particularly valuable for managerial decisions and business practices of all kinds.

six thinking hats for social enterprises

In its original version, the 6THs represent six different thinking styles. Therefore, each way of thinking has its own colored “thinking hat” associated. De Bono Group, a consulting firm named after the inventor of this technique, identifies the following “mindsets/hats”:

1. White Hat, focusing on facts, available information and objective data;

2. Yellow Hat, focusing on positives, benefits and reasons why an idea might succeed;

3. Black Hat, focusing on dangers, difficulties and reasons why an idea might fail;

4. Green Hat, focusing on creativity, with new ideas and alternatives that might overcome previous weaknesses;

5. Red Hat, focusing on emotions and intuitions, not strictly related to logic reasoning;

6. Blue Hat, the control mechanism overviewing the whole thinking process.

Usually the 6THs are used in brainstorming sessions, with small as well as bigger groups of people. The Blue Hat usually initiates the whole process and sets the direction to take. Then, the team starts examining a problem/idea from a specific perspective (namely, a “hat”), before moving onto analyzing it from a different viewpoint (another “hat”).

Six Thinking Hats: “Social Enterprise” version

As said before, here at Impact Jungle our goal is to help aspiring social entrepreneurs master tools and techniques coming from the fields of business modeling and business design. From time to time, this might include “reinterpreting” such tools/techniques in the context of social entrepreneurship. As you may have guessed, with did exactly the same with 6THs.

Given the complexities social entrepreneurs usually deal with, for each “thinking hat” we indeed put together some key questions that might help them use this technique more effectively.

six thinking hats for social entrepreneurs, social business design
Original version © The De Bono Group

As a rule of thumb, it’s important to remember that the Blue Hat begins the whole process by setting up the agenda, as well as the rules to follow and the goals to achieve. From there, the brainstorming session can truly begin. Since that moment, team members are initiated to the thinking hats, that should be used to analyze the situation from different points of view.


In this article, we provided a brief overview of the famous brainstorming technique called “Six Thinking Hats“. Thanks to this approach, business practitioners can indeed succeed in examining specific situations from different viewpoints and make optimal decisions accordingly.

Also, building on De Bono’s original version of this technique, we introduced our own. Here, new, driving questions specifically meant for social entrepreneurs have been added. Feel free to download this “tool” and use it during your brainstorming meetings. We hope this might be helpful to make better decisions and build more effective solutions able to generate positive social change!

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