Blue, yellow, white, black, green and red: Six thinking hats at Karls

Blue sorts, white analyzes, black criticizes. And what do yellow, red and green do? They too look at the same case from a different perspective. All colors can be attributed to certain character traits in real life, which in turn gather together in almost every company.

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Since it is advantageous to know the “color” of an employee, the technique of color-coded thinking hats, developed by Edward de Bono, was used at Karlshochschule. Whoever tries to change perspectives and to consider others is rewarded with improved communication among employees.

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Professor Wendelin Küpers teaches the thinking hats technique to his students. Divided into six groups, the first step is to make the six colored hats that represent a certain perspective.

White corresponds with analytical thinking, and an affinity towards facts and solutions. Red represents emotions, feelings and opinions, while black criticizes and voices out fears and skeptics. Contrary to that, yellow shows optimism, green displays creative thinking and thinking out of the box, while blue tries to bring order into the work process and attempts to get a clear overview.

The first step is always to familiarize oneself with one’s thinking hat color and the correlating traits. That is done in a meeting before hand. Once all team members know the roles they will be playing well enough, the different hats mix and give their individual opinions and perspectives on a case study.

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Why do all this? With this role playing, many different ways of thinking are taken into consideration before a decision is made. Discussions are a natural result of the role play, since the participants tend to   fully immerse themselves in the character they are playing.

Tabea Rueß sat down with Tobias Hess, a  master student at Karlshoschule, to talk about the “Six Thinking Hats” model.


Tobias, tell me: what is it like to take a perspective that might even be the exact opposite of your actual opinion?

In the beginning it is rather strange. But after our group made our “black hats” and we thought about the traits that black represents, we felt slightly better. Though, to be honest, I personally am not the angsty or complainy type outside of the role play. After all, the colors were drawn out of a hat, to make sure nobody would pick their own color.

What experience do you take from the experiment?

I definitely learned to take more time to understand others and to always attempt understanding them. De Bono’s six hats help tremendously, because they give an approximation of what my opponent in argument might be thinking or why he or she might be acting in a certain way.

Theory and practice really blend into one in this class, what are your thoughts on that?

I think it’s great. It is a good way of bringing theory closer to the students, since we all have to know the theory. And where would be a better place to do it than here? Karlshochschule is the best  place to try out creative experiments such as the “Six Hats” and always supports creative experiments. 

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How, would you say, does role playing change the interactions among the students?

I believe role playing only furthers group cohesion. Everybody was thrown into the water, and had to take a role. You leave your comfort zone, and that is the way to learn new things. Soon we will have the role play for creative thinking, I am sure we will talk again real soon :)

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