Edward de Bono is a leading authority in the field of creative thinking and the direct teaching of thinking as a skill. His work is in use equally in the boardrooms of some of the world's largest corporations and with four-year-olds in school. This shows the universal applicability and simplicity of his work.

In his famous book "Six Thinking Hats", de Bono uses six colors - blue, white, red, yellow, green and black to represent six different thinking faculties. In Toastmasters, we also have six different roles that are crucial to the success of a meeting.

Toastmaster of the Day: TMoD is like a blue hat which is the control hat.

In de Bono's words "The blue hat is the control hat. The blue hat thinker organizes the thinking itself. He is like the conductor of the orchestra. He calls for the use of the other hats. Blue hat thinking sets the focus and is responsible for summaries, overviews and conclusions. It monitors the thinking and ensures that the rules of the game are observed".

This summarizes the responsibilities of the TMoD. He organizes the meeting and just as the conductor of the orchestra, sets the meeting in motion. He sets the focus by selecting a theme and runs it throughout the meeting. He monitors and ensures that the meeting goes smoothly according to the agenda within time limits.

General Evaluator: Our GE is a white hat which represents facts and figures.

"White hat thinking is a discipline and a direction. It focuses directly and exclusively on information. The information can range from hard facts and figures to soft information like opinions and feelings. The thinker strives to be neutral and objective."

Like a white hat, GE gives direction to his team of role players. He presents his evaluation on the entire meeting in hard facts such as starting and ending time, arrangements, protocol, and his opinions and feelings on positive aspects and areas for improvement. He presents his findings in a neutral and objective manner.

Speaker: Red hat is to express emotions and feelings.

"Wearing the red hat allows the thinker to say: 'This is how I feel about the matter'. It legitimizes emotions and feelings as an important part of thinking. It gives you an opportunity to express feelings, emotions and intuitions without any need to explain or to justify them. It is always applied to specific idea or situation."

That aptly describes the speaker's role. The speaker expresses his feelings and emotions about an idea or situation through his speech. He also arouses feelings and emotions in us and makes us think. His speech has to meet specific objectives of the speech project.

Evaluator: Yellow hat thinking is positive and constructive.

"Yellow hat thinking is concerned with positive assessment. It is constructive and generative. From this thinking come concrete proposals and suggestions. Effectiveness is the aim of this hat."

Our evaluator wears yellow hat to give constructive feedback to speaker. He focuses on positive aspects and offers suggestions for improvement. Speakers benefit immensely from effective evaluations that combine encouragement and suggestions.

Table Topics Master: TTM can comfortably wear a green hat as this symbolizes creative thinking.

"It stands for fertility, growth and the value of seeds. There is a need to go beyond the known and the obvious and the satisfactory. It is used to take us of out of our usual patterns of thinking. Ideally both thinker and listener should be wearing green hats."

TTM does exactly that. He gives seeds of table topics where we can stand up and practice that coveted public speaking skill. It requires creativity to come up with topics that take the speakers out of their comfort zone and make them speak. The seed sown in a one-minute speech will eventually grow into a tree. It's the TT session which usually entices the guests to become members.

Timer: Black hat is concerned with caution.

de Bono says "The black hat draws us to matters that need our attention. It can be used as part of assessment and also in the design process. The purpose of black hat thinking is to put the caution points on the map."

The timer cautions about the time limits for various activities in the meeting. His role is very important and built into the design of the meeting. This is one role we see in all contests, be they table topics, humorous speeches or evaluations. Maintaining time limit is of ultimate importance in all roles and all meetings. Where will we be without those green, yellow and red flags?

So Toastmasters - get up and wear those blue, white, red, yellow, green and black hats and play all roles in the upcoming meetings!

I see that now my black hat is raising a red flag!! I still have 2 seconds of grace time – Happy Creative Thinking!!

[Excerpts of Dr. de Bono were taken from his book "Six Thinking Hats". For more information, visit www.edwdebono.com. For ease of writing, both genders were referred to as "he"]

Article contributed by Surekha Thandra, February 2015