Six Thinking Hats for Enterprise Risk Management

October 2012 Bonus Resource

I recently revisited the book Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono. The powerful central idea is that rather than approaching decision-making as an argument to be won (or lost), instead the Six Hats method defines the full range of thinking approaches that are required for generating creative strategies to achieve business goals and solve whatever problems arise along the way.

de Bono defines the ways of thinking as these six ‘hats’:

  • White Hat: White is neutral and objective. The white hat is concerned with objective facts and figures.
  • Red Hat: Red suggests anger (seeing red), rage and emotions. The red hat gives the emotional view.
  • Black Hat: Black is somber and serious. The black hat is cautious and careful. It points out the weaknesses in an idea.
  • Yellow Hat: Yellow is sunny and positive. The yellow hat is optimistic and covers hope and positive thinking.
  • Green Hat: Green is grass, vegetation and abundant, fertile growth. The green hat indicates creativity and new ideas.
  • Blue Hat: Blue is cool, and it is also the colour of the sky, which is above everything else. The blue hat is concerned with control, the organization of the thinking process and the use of the other hats.”

To apply the Six Hats method, all the team members imagine themselves all wearing one hat at a time. They cycle through the various hats at different points in the decision making process. The team matches the hat to the specific nature of the issue to be resolved. For example, white hat thinking could be used to focus on identifying what is known about a particular risk, what is not known, the assumptions, etc. Green hat thinking could be used to design risk response strategies.

The method ensures that the team has a fulsome discussion
about the problem, generates a good set of potential solutions and then thoroughly examines the options to arrive at an optimal decision.

Traditional risk management approaches tend to restrict people’s thinking
to the black hat. Consequently, creativity is stifled and the perceived relevance of the ERM discipline suffers.

de Bono explains that the emphasis of the Six Hats method is “on ‘what can be’ rather than just on ‘what is’, and on how we design a way forward.” Isn’t that exactly what is needed to imagine risks (both threats and opportunities) that may occur, explore the implications of those risks and develop solid management strategies to manage them?

For details and to order this book, follow this link to the Risk Wise Reading List:

Please let me know about the books that have helped you to be a more effective leader
on your enterprise risk management journey.

Follow the links to:

Read this month's Feature ArticleCreating a Healthy ERM Culture – Part 2

Download a printable version of the entire October 2012 Issue of the Risk Management Made Simple Advisory.

View the Article Index to access back issues of the Risk Management Made Simple Advisory.

Current Special Offers for Subscribers

The code to access the following special offer has been emailed to all Risk Management Made Simple Advisory subscribers:

  • SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY OFFER:  To entice you to 'take a bite', we are waiving the fee ($100 value) for your first Virtual Learning Bite.  (Subscribers have been sent the instructions on how to access this offer).  Not yet a subscriber?  Don't miss out, click here to sign-up for your complimentary Advisory subscription.  The Learning Bite topics for June 2019 are:
    • Italian Flag is a technique that enables you to quickly conduct an evidence-based assessment of the likelihood that a risk event will occur.  The focus on evidence helps to minimize the bias that can creep in when using more subjective methods such as the risk matrix approach which relies heavily on judgement and opinion.
    • Range Assessment is a technique that enables you to enables you to estimate a range for a variable (e.g., impact or cost of a risk event) which more realistically represents and communicates the uncertainty in the estimate than a single number would.
    • Scenario Planning Primer - Scenario planning is a powerful methodology to get to grips with the future uncertainties of the broader business environment.  The primer provides an overview of the approach illustrated by examples of scenarios and also covers how scenario planning can support decision making.
  • SPECIAL OFFER: $500 off the full program fee for Risk Management Made Simple Advisory subscribers on the Masters Certificate in Risk Management and Business Performance . The next program module to be held on September 23-26, 2019 in Toronto, ON. (Subscribers have been sent the instructions on how to access this offer).  Not yet a subscriber?  Don't miss out, click here to sign-up for your complimentary Advisory subscription.  Note:  the only change from the current listing on this are the dates.

Not yet a subscriber, but want to access these special offers?

When you subscribe to the Advisory, we'll send you the code for all current special offers along with a link to your New Subscriber Bonus, a copy of Moving Beyond the Risk Map to Operational Vigilance.

FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF why risk management leaders subscribe, click to access the ARTICLE INDEX of all past issues of the Risk Management Made Simple Advisory.

"I save and study each issue of the Advisory. I appreciate how Diana gives very practical advice and links it to fundamental theories and best practices." 

Sherrie Hyde, Risk Manager, Lutherwood


Moving Beyond the Risk Map to Operational Vigilance

Read more about the Risk Management Made Simple Advisory.

"It is so refreshing to read a newsletter that offers real solutions for risk management challenges."
Cathy Taylor
Director, Risk
Kinross Gold Corporation

Jump Start your risk management program.

Receive personalized advice from Risk Wise

See Details

Diana's Pick

The Neuroscience of Enterprise Risk Management (written by Diana Del Bel Belluz of Risk Wise) expores findings from the field of neuroscience and shares practical tips on how to apply them to enhance individuals' risk management thinking and implement brain-friendly ERM practices in organizations.

The article was published by The Conference Board of Canada in the Autumn 2017 issue of the journal Risk Watch.