Red Hat Thinking

Red Hat

Red Hat Thinking is a concept introduced by Edward de Bono as part of the Six Thinking Hats framework, which serves as a thinking approach that allows individuals or teams to express their emotions, intuitions, and feelings without the need for justification. This thinking mode acknowledges and leverages the human element in decision-making, problem-solving, and discussions.


In Red Hat Thinking, individuals wear the metaphorical “red hat” to symbolize their emotional input. Unlike some other thinking modes, Red Hat Thinking does not require logical or fact-based arguments. Instead, it encourages participants to express their gut feelings, intuitions, and emotions openly and honestly. This approach is particularly useful in recognizing and addressing the emotional aspects of a situation, which are often intertwined with complex systems and human interactions.

Key Principles and Applications

  1. Emotional Expression: Red Hat Thinking gives people the space to express how they feel about a situation without judgment or criticism. This can be especially helpful when dealing with sensitive or complex issues.
  2. Conflict Resolution: By allowing emotions to be openly expressed, Red Hat Thinking can help resolve conflicts and misunderstandings by acknowledging and validating the emotions of all parties involved.
  3. Creativity and Innovation: Emotions can play a crucial role in the creative process. Red Hat Thinking can encourage the exploration of unconventional ideas and inspire innovative solutions.
  4. Risk Assessment: When assessing the potential impact of decisions or changes within a system, understanding the emotional responses they may evoke can be vital in making informed choices.

Use in Systems Thinking

In the context of systems thinking, Red Hat Thinking contributes by recognizing the emotions and intuitions of stakeholders within a system. It acknowledges that emotions and human factors can have a profound impact on how systems operate and how decisions affect various parties.


  • Empathy: Red Hat Thinking fosters empathy by encouraging individuals to understand and acknowledge the emotions of others. This can lead to more compassionate and inclusive decision-making.
  • Conflict Resolution: It helps in resolving conflicts by giving voice to the emotional aspects of disputes, paving the way for productive discussions and resolutions.
  • Creativity and Innovation: Red Hat Thinking can inspire new and innovative ideas by tapping into the emotional and intuitive dimensions of thinking.
  • Holistic Understanding: Systems thinkers often use Red Hat Thinking to understand how emotional responses can impact the functioning of complex systems and to consider the well-being of all involved.


Red Hat Thinking is a valuable thinking approach that recognizes the importance of emotions and intuitions in decision-making, problem-solving, and discussions. In the realm of systems thinking, it acknowledges the human element within complex systems, facilitating a more holistic understanding of how emotions can influence the operation of systems and the well-being of individuals within those systems. It provides a space for open and honest emotional expression, leading to more empathetic and creative outcomes.