What was the true origin of the “thinking caps idea for teaching thinking skills”?



1. In New York in 1983 The Edward de Bono School of Thinking Inc pioneered the ‘thinking caps method of teaching thinking skills’ and began disseminating the idea. The first publication of the idea was in a New York Times syndicated column about the School of Thinking which was published in 30 newspapers in the USA entitled, It’s time to put on your thinking caps” (April 1, 1984).

This fact and all the facts stated in this case are supported by documentary evidence and third-party corroboration secured with SOT’s Melbourne and New York lawyers.

2. The School of Thinking created the six thinking caps strategy to help thinkers to escape from their current thinking patterns. This method is now used widely around the world.

3.  In August 1984, as a result of a dispute over intellectual property rights, Edward de Bono and The Edward de Bono School of Thinking Inc (incorporated in the State of New York) became legally separated. The details of this story are written up here in The Story of the Edward de Bono School of Thinking.

4.  The following year, in London 1985, Edward published an unauthorised version of Six Thinking Hats in which he lifted the original School of Thinking idea by making just a few minor changes.

5.  In his book De Bono changed School of Thinking Caps and Headbands to ‘thinking hats’. He then switched the definitions of the  ‘blue’ and ‘green’ ones around. That’s all! There are no other significant innovations in ‘his’ book.

6.  In his book he took full credit for the idea and failed to attribute The Edward de Bono School of Thinking, Inc. as the owners and originators of the IP of the ‘Thinking Caps Method for teaching thinking’. This was not only an illegal act but also a serious academic misrepresentation.

7.  After many requests from the School of Thinking and repeated assurances from Edward that he would rectify this, he has still failed to do so.

8.  In the Preface of a recent edition of Six Thinking Hats Dr de Bono acknowledges that, “The Six Thinking Hats method may well be the most important change in human thinking for the past 2300 years”.

8.  For the record, and for those who are interested in such things, here is the original transcript of the ‘School of Thinking Caps’ idea which was designed in a series of meetings in September 1983 between directors of The Edward de Bono School of Thinking, Inc in New York and in London.

9.  Both audio and written records were kept of these meetings in September 1983. The following transcript is taken, word-for-word from these original records:



Put on your thinking cap. Which one? If you play-act being a thinker then you will become a thinker. There are many different sorts of thinking.

At each moment you should know what sort of thinking you are using. So you put on the thinking cap that fits the occasion.

(The caps are sold in sets of six. Each is of a different colour and each bears the logo of the School of Thinking. Instead of caps elasticised head bands could be used.)

Information. Facts and figures. When you are wearing the white cap you just give neutral information. You are a sort of library. Just get the facts out. Give all the information you can on the matter.

Negative. Why it is wrong. What is wrong with it. Why it won’t work. Why it is not true. Why you do not believe it or do not agree with it. Note that if you simply do not like something then that comes under another hat.

Being positive. Plus. Yellow for sunshine. Build on the idea. Be constructive. Use the idea. Show its good points. Be enthusiastic.

This is the emotional hat. Feelings. Just say what you feel about the idea without bothering to explain. You hate the idea. You love the idea. Feelings and values. What your instinctive reaction happens to be. Be emotional.

This is cool and laid back. This is detached and objective. Here you are organising your thinking about the matter. Green is for focusing your thinking. For giving instructions to yourself and others. Green is neutral. You can be exploring the subject through the use of deliberate thinking tools.

This is for ‘blue-sky’ or creative ideas. The ideas do not have to be sensible or logical. You can use provocations. You can try things out. Wild and crazy ideas are allowed. The purpose is to have new ideas. Blue also allows ‘interesting’ comments about the idea. Observations of interest even if they do not follow the main track of the thinking.

So put on your thinking cap. Ask someone else to put on their thinking cap. When you have chosen your cap then think only according to that cap’s colour. In this way you come to use your thinking as a skill: using whatever type of thinking you want. On whatever occasion. So you become a thinker.

Copyright © 1983 New York.

Edward de Bono School of Thinking, Inc.

All rights reserved.

10. Twenty-four years later, in 2007, the School of Thinking created the seventh thinking cap, the Grey Hat for Wisdom. See: The 7th Hat – The Grey Hat for Wisdom


  1. a wonderful tool for “setting aside the ego for the moment” in the service of generating creative ideas.

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