What was the origin of the ‘6 thinking caps’ idea for teaching thinking skills?

I’m often asked, “What was the origin of

the ‘6 thinking caps’ idea for teaching thinking skills”?

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).

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.

Edward de Bono was co-author of The Learn-To-Think: Coursebook and Instructors Manual with Michael Hewitt-Gleeson de Saint-Arnaud (1982), ISBN 0-88496-199-0 .

They co-founded the School of Thinking in New York. When Edward published Six Thinking Hats he claimed that, “The Six Thinking Hats method may well be the most important change in human thinking for the past 2300 years”.

For those who are interested in such things, here is the original transcript of the ‘School of Thinking Caps’ idea which Edward de Bono (co-founder SOT), Eric Bienstock, (Vice-principal SOT) and I (co-founder SOT) designed in a series of meetings in September 1983 as directors of The Edward de Bono School of Thinking, Inc in New York and in London.



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.

Now, the School of Thinking is launching the Seventh Thinking Cap for Wisdom. See: The 7th Cap – The Grey Cap for Wisdom

32 thoughts on “What was the origin of the ‘6 thinking caps’ idea for teaching thinking skills?

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

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