The popular phrase “going green” should denote much more than the advancement of business goals while simultaneously paying close attention to environmental issues. Long before it was used to denote climate and ecosystem sensitivity, “going green” referred to the Christian mindset associated with the Patron Saint of Ireland – Saint Patrick. His is a story that should not be lost in the celebration of green shamrocks, and leprechauns but in the ability to view difficult life situations from healthy perspectives.
Saint Patrick is a noted Saint of the Roman Catholic Church, distinguished for his faithful commitment to the ideals of Christianity. At the age of sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by a band of marauders who carried him off to Ireland. There, he was cast into servitude, tending their flocks and fields. Isolated and alone, Patrick clung to his faith to endure the cruelty of his masters.
After six years in captivity, Patrick summoned the courage to escape. He survived a 200-mile trek across Ireland to the sea and then secretly boarded a ship headed for the safety of his homeland. Years later, Patrick amazingly decided to return to Ireland as a Christian missionary. Having learned the island’s language during his incarceration, Patrick was now equipped to effectively preach Christianity to a Druid pagan population.
Saint Patrick’s missionary success was not due to his cultural or linguistic knowledge but to his ability to think confidently and creatively. By humbly offering to pay a generous compensation for his earlier escape, he quickly won favor from his former captors. It was this modest novel gesture that provided Patrick the vital platform from which to successfully share his religious views.
Saint Patrick is an example of “going green.” In fact, he is a case study in “Green Hat” thinking! While there is much cultural and religious history behind the color green, contemporary business leadership often associate it with renewal, fertile growth, creativity and novel ideas.
“Green Hat” thinking is one of six modes of cognitive understanding described in Edward De Bono’s international bestselling book, Six Thinking Hats (1985/1999). According to Edward De Bono, “Six Hat Thinking” is a method for carefully looking at a situation and then making decisions about it from a number of divergent yet interconnected perspectives. This valuable problem-solving technique forces leaders to move outside of their habitual thinking style, and seek more comprehensive views and options of a given situation.
According to De Bono, thinking can be divided into six distinct modes:
- White Hat – Neutral and objective, facts and figures
- Red Hat – Emotional, with gut reaction
- Black Hat – Careful and cautious
- Yellow Hat – Sunny, positive, and optimistic
- Green Hat – Creative, fertile, and novel views
- Blue Hat – Cool, collective and organized
“Six Hat” thinking allows leaders the possibility of addressing problems from a variety of different angles. It aids individuals to recognize deficiencies in the way that they approach a specific problem, thereby giving them the luxury of rectifying narrow views or unproductive responses.
“Six Hat” thinking guides discussion through six color-codes of deliberate thinking. It is a cognitive method that protects groups from the danger of viewing an issue from only one point of view – usually a negative (black) one! It also guards against hasty Pollyannaish decisions.
For example, conversation at a business team, or office staff meeting, may start with the participants assuming the “blue hat” (organizational) approach to develop the initial goals and objectives for the discussion. The meeting may then move to “red hat” (emotional) thinking in order to collect opinions, reactions and possible impacts of the problem.
Healthy, well-balanced discussions would then move to white (objective), black (critical), and then “yellow” (optimistic) deliberations. Finally, equipped with a more collaborative examination of a situation or problem, leaders may put on the valuable “Green Hat” (creative) in order to generate fresh ideas, and insightful out-of-the-box solutions.
As legend has it, Saint Patrick created the Celtic cross in an effort to connect the significance of Christ’s death with the Druid veneration for the sun. He also used the green shamrock to creatively explain the concept of the Holy Trinity. Whatever the case, within a century of his imaginative “Green Hat” missionary activity, the entire nation of Ireland had converted to the religious faith of one of its former slaves.
Regardless of a person’s religious beliefs, there’s no denying the creative and inspirational thinking power of Saint Patrick. He enjoyed enormous influence as a leader because he was not afraid of “Going Green!”