Using the earth’s rich plant life as a metaphor, green represents design, structure, strategy, research, and the development of detailed plans.  Each plant has its own unique design.  Starting out as a seed that falls into the ground, or is planted into a fertile environment, it then grows into the exact structure that was programmed into its DNA.  

Green thinking is the design stage of an idea. Design as defined by means: “to prepare the preliminary sketch or the plans for a work to be executed, to plan the form and structure of…to conceive in the mind; to fashion; the development of a plan or project”. Design has to do with planning in a systematic way. It means to create or produce, as in a work of art; to from a plan or scheme; to form an outline or sketch an idea; to invent; to project, and to lay out in the mind. 

An idea, like a seed, will grow and develop as we set goals, create detailed plans and develop a strategy for its implementation.  Thinking in Green begins with breaking a concept down into its component parts, researching the facts and gaining the advice of the experts. The idea is then crafted by taking it into the workshop of the imagination.  The imagination is a faculty of the human spirit, and is a well-equipped workshop that draws heavily on every other thinking color to do its job.  We move back and forth from color to color in order to create a masterpiece.



The structure of a tree reminds us of another great thinking and planning system that can assist in the design thinking process – Mind Mapping.  Mind Mapping is a thinking system built on the way the brain operates best.  Not in logical sequence, but like the branches of a tree or the arteries of a leaf.  This system allows the brain to reach out in any direction and capture all associated thoughts.  Memory works by an activation process that Mind Mapping helps to trigger.  In my experience Mind Maps are a powerful tool for thinking because they enable us to sketch out an idea (and any associated thoughts) quickly giving us an overview of a subject.  Tony Buzan, in his book The Mindmap Book, points out that Mind Maps provide an exceptionally useful intermediate stage between the thinking process and actually committing words to paper.

Mind Mapping is no mystical new age idea; it was the practice of many of the great thinkers of history such as Isaac Newton, Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Michelangelo, Beethoven and Vincent van Gogh.  This list goes on to include great thinkers from the fields of politics, the military, architecture, art, poetry, science and literature.  Criticized for making messy notes or doodling, these great thinkers used words, images, symbols, numbers, diagrams and pictures to give their ideas color, movement, depth and dimension.



Mind Mapping helps trigger a mountain of memory and experience.  These maps draw on our personal database; the library of everything we have ever seen, heard, touched, tasted or felt.  Tony Buzan points out that, “Each bit of information entering your brain – every sensation, memory or thought (incorporating every word, number, code, food, fragrance, color, image, beat, note and texture) can be represented as a central sphere from which radiate tens, hundreds, thousands, millions of hooks.  Each hook represents an association and each association has its own infinite array of links and connections.” 1 Mind Maps ignite a huge storehouse of information.

This system works by simply placing your idea at the centre of a piece of paper.  Then, in the same way that most plants grow out in many directions, you draw lines or create branches flowing in all directions, identifying any associated ideas or major subheadings.  As illustrated, you may use pictures, words or symbols in this green thinking process.  It may be used to stimulate creativity, organize ideas for a speech, brainstorm or develop detailed plans, or to simply take notes.




Before we can fully engage the planning process, we must clarify the big picture. Thinking in both yellow and blue we paint the big picture, hammering out our big goals, as well as defining the key departments of our lives. Numerous words are used to describe the big picture: vision, objectives, the dream; whatever words are used the concept is basically the same.        

Goals set the direction, planning builds the road. Goals give us a sketch, planning ads the structure and color. Goals are statements of faith about the future, planning creates blueprints so all involved can play their role. Goals are the seeds, planning the growth and development. Green thinking will grow an idea from a seed into a living, colorful, fruitful tree. The art of goal setting is an important part of thinking in green, because goals must be set in order to measure our progress–they are a vital part of the planning process. Goals force us to plan ahead and use our time and resources effectively.

In a book called Psycho-cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz reveals that we have all been wired by our Creator with a goal-seeking device called the servomechanism. Every living thing has the Life Instinct, a built in guidance system said to be the most advanced guidance system in existence. It’s what wakes us up in the middle of the night, causing our brain to switch on and come alive with ideas, innovations, and solutions to problems, for challenges we may be facing. Maltz says,” there is within each one of us a Life Instinct, which is forever working toward health, happiness, and all that makes for more life for the individual”. He calls it the Creative or Success Mechanism, due to its drive to achieve success and not failure. This built-in automatic guidance system, once the goal is set, doesn’t stop processing night and day until it has hit its mark. The science of Cybernetics suggests there is convincing proof that the so called subconscious mind is not a mind at all, but a mechanism – a goal-striving servo-mechanism consisting of the brain and nervous system, which is used by and directed by the mind.



A vital part of clarifying the big picture is to gain a snapshot of the key areas that make up our lives, as they exist now. Green thinking is not only useful in the context of our work and business lives, or one-off projects, but also in developing our personal lives. A great starting point in building a life by design, or a personal strategic plan, is to identify the key departments of your life. Key departments may include: Family and friends, physical health, work life, social life, and spiritual life. It also includes; business and personal projects, and other areas of interest such as writing books or producing short documentaries. Whatever it is we discover in the multitude of books on planning, time management or goal setting; we must personalize it, so that it works for us.

Taking the time to outline these key departments helps us to take inventory of our personal assets and liabilities – a reality check of sorts. Understanding these key areas gives as a big picture, GPS or satellite overview, of where we stand now in relation to where we may want to be. GPS stands forglobal positioning system, and is a satellite navigation system consisting of a network of 24 orbiting satellites, placed in orbit by the U.S. Department of Defense.  A GPS serves us by showing us where are now in relation to our map, and where we need to head in order to reach our desired destination. 

In developing my own personal strategic plan, I have developed my own systems and maps to help keep me on tract. I have created a Life by Design Journal, something I visit regularly, and something that’s always changing.

It is a place I can escape too and think, dream, imagine and invent. This is a sanctuary where I can develop my ideas, and update my goals.



At the moment the headings and sections are as follows:

Dreams, passions, goals and big ideas – some of these may have made it on to my list of key departments or projects sections; others may stay on my wish list for years before I have the power or time to do anything about them.

Key departments – Under each key area I have set goals, sub-goals, and then outlined every task I can think of in order to achieved those goals. Again they may sit there for a while before taking action.

Projects – These maybe the extension of a key department, or a one off project, business or personal. This is where I get serious, and set objectives, create detailed plans, and defined tasks; I draw up a map in order to keep on track, and achieve my passions or dreams. 


To-do-lists or Tasks – This has to do with managing the greatest asset or gift we posses–time. Everything comes down to daily action, to where the rubber meets the road, and requires being organized and motivated.

Great ideas – This is the brainstorming, think tank section, where I allow myself to think outside of the box. This is where I use the mind Mapping tool to think and create. This is where I store the great ideas I may use, give away or action some day.

My dreams, passions and big ideas should seldom change, but do mature as I spend time thinking on them. Key departments on the other hand can change more often, as we change jobs, diets, or exercise plans. In the physical health department for instance there is constant change and development in order to keep motivated. Goals in the area of health may relate to: books to read, new sports to try, and education concerning diet and health in general. 

Tasks are then the action points that can be dropped into my daily to-do-list, should I find the time or energy.

The mountains we climb become achievable as we breakdown reaching the summit into bit-size tasks and daily action.

The starting point is to think in yellow and blue, then move back and forth between green and red. Thinking in yellow and blue is essential for clarifying the big picture design, whereas thinking in green and red adds development and detail to our design.



Planning is the primary skill of green thinking, and equally applies to organizing our personal lives as it dose achieving our goals in business or at work. Planning is the process used to achieve our goals. Planning is the creation of a map, the mental journey into the future in order to calculate the resources needed and the obstacles to be overcome. Great planners anticipate change, look for opportunities, and eliminate the unknown. 

Like building a jig-saw-puzzle, planning paints the whole picture giving us an accurate overview so we can connect all of the hundreds of little pieces together.  These tiny pieces of puzzle are all shaped and colored differently, so if the box didn’t have the goal-picture painted on it’s lid, it would be almost impossible to assemble. 

Green thinking sets priorities, creates deadlines, and commits to a timetable for action. In the area of project planning there are numerous planning templates and software packages available on the Internet that will give structure and design to your ideas.

For example on my MacBook Pro I use Entourage, developed by Microsoft as a tool to help me organize my mail, contacts, calendar, tasks and projects. I use the projects centre to organize my personal and corporate life. Every email, contact, task or communication that relates to a project or key department is placed under the appropriate project heading. 

There are many planning tools and systems available, from the easy-to-use to the highly complex, depending on your project. They all reveal elements relevant to effective planning, but are not always applicable to every project. 

It’s all go and we’re moving ahead at full speed – the sky’s the limit!  At this stage you need to move your thinking into a lower gear, thinking in red, for a more analytical, critical thinking approach.