The 6 hats of Innovation (aka We are all innovators #2)

Yesterday, while discussing a project for an innovation department I was wondering: Who to involve in innovation? Who are these innovative people that we need?

When we think about this we usually tend to think about creative, outgoing kind of person, that also communicates well, has a just-do-it attitude, good in execution and a team leader/player – kind of a super-man or super-woman!
Well, we all have done some amount of profile tests that show how different we all are and that people balance different behaviours and we learned to value all (?) the profiles, right? And we all know that even super-man is not mister-perfect!

So if we do not have super-duper-man, what do we have? or better what do we need?

That’s when my brain did some of those hard to explain associations – what about the De Bono 6 Thinking Hats?
What?! What if what we need to make innovation succeed is to have the 6 hats? And if one person only has one head, maybe we are looking at 6 heads!

Eduard De Bono's 6 Thinking Hats - by Paul Foreman

Eduard De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats – by Paul Foreman

White Hat – Facts, what are the facts – this is the Quant kind of guy that likes numbers, facts, determinism, and metrics
Red Hat – Emotions – the gut feeling, reactions, the emotion about a process, a customer, a problem – this drives passion, obsession – the emotional, intuitive people. These people may sense the impacts and barriers in people and the organisation and customer.
Black Hat – judgement Discernment/Conservative – those wearing this hat will be causcious, think about the risks, they work as the devil’s advocate highlighting possible issues and barriers. They are also good identifying what is not working now in the system – while they critic the status quo they can fuel areas that need innovation and problems to be solved, they are not part of the solution but they bring problems to the table.
Yellow Hat – Positive – identifies the benefits and opportunities, seeks also harmony. They can be used to peek and idea and develop its benefits and ramifications – good to make a case to sell an innovation project.
Green Hat – Creative, What if? – provocative thinking opening new possibilities and exploring new paths. Give them a problem and they create an opportunity – they spark and develop new ideas based on issues, facts and emotion they receive from others. While they are the typical “innovator” they lack other important traits.
Blue Hat – Facilitation – ensures the process is working, facilitates – this is the “innovator manager” that brings people together and facilitates and enables the process – he understands the need to have different heads to identify and think about an innovation opportunity.

Maybe it is easier to look into the process.

In the beginning we have:

  • issues identified by the Black Hat person
  • facts brought by the White Hat

These two bring the seed for a dialog about an innovation opportunity.
The Red hat helps with his intuition and gut feeling bringing interpretation to facts and emotional judgment to issues – “I believe that” “I feel that” “people are frustrated about”
At this point the Green Hat develops ideas on how to explore the issues and opportunities – he leverages also on the gut feeling of the red hat.
But because the idea needs to be sold internally the Yellow Hat builds a case that develops the opportunity with all the direct and indirect benefits.
The Blue Hat, as a facilitator, makes sure that he gathers the right people with their own different hats and that the discussion leverages on all the perspectives. Because the process is more rich if it is non-linear he must sense the direction and make sure that different perspectives are included along the way. For example:

  • When building the case, some facts and information is needed, so the white hat jumps in.
  • When the case is sound, what can be criticised? what counter-arguments can we foresee? This calls for black-hat thinking.
  • Through this process, new feelings, intuitions, ideas and facts need to be added or considered
  • Because we are not monochromatic we all can bring something from other color thinking, so he makes sure everyone is involved through the process while still having a structure dialogue.

We are all innovators

If this makes sense and we need all these kinds of heads to make innovation happen then is fare to say that non of these is the innovator, but all of these people are innovators – because all of them participate.

What else?

But looking to these I was wondering: this is fine when it comes to identify an opportunity and building the case for an innovation project, but who and how will it be executed? What else do we need to succeed?

Let me know your inputs and experience and I’ll write a follow-up of this post.


About Hugo

Consultant, Trainer, Facilitator and Mentor. I discover and develop market opportunities using my experience and knowledge of marketing, digital business, product development and strategy and leveraging on my leadership and team management skills. I have a broad experience in creating new products, new business ventures and knowledge of many different areas such as sales, legal, finance, IT and HR to be able to turn ideas into solid results.
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6 Responses to The 6 hats of Innovation (aka We are all innovators #2)

  1. Very inspiring message!

    Thank you!

    I believe that are very few “things” that we do not carry with us when we arrive to this world.

    Even though the indoctrination process around the world trying to convince us that certain of us are “very special” with special gift such as innovation, leadership (and so on) the true is that within the correct environment “all” of us can blossom the jewels of our DNA package. Academia, media and similar benefit greatly from the indoctrination. Students with debts do not benefit so much…

    So a less polluted “environment” would contribute for more Albert Einstein to blossom…

    • Hugo…once again I thank you for sharing your thoughts and the patience to sum up Edward de Bono ideias in a simple manner… the ‘Mind Map’ was essencial to me as well as the text.

      …On a way this comes across with my metaphor of interpreneurship as a “Pocker Game of Cards” that I will share with you Hugo later on.

      And I totally agree with you kiitossakidila .
      Personally speaking I feel it was school that ‘indoctrinated’ me as part of this ‘indoctrination process around the world’. But paradoxically it was the same “school” that gave me the tools to be able to do a ‘critique’ regarding the indoctrinated world.
      Regarding debts,
      my friend … regarding this “small issue”, that is to say, the so called “Money ‘diabolique'”… it ‘fuckly does matter’ to have it to tackle the challenges of the world.
      The trick is how to balance those processes, that is,
      Being able to des-indoctrinate yourself from the ‘indoctrination process around the world’ as well as see\ to take advantage of your condition of being with “debts\lack of money”.

  2. Good article.This reminded me of IDEO’s Tom Kelley “Ten Faces of Innovation”, you should check his book out if you feel the need to somehow understand the different types personalities involved in the innovation/ creative process.

    You can find a short summary here:

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