Green Ocean Coaching

CoachHub · 28 December 2022 · 4 min read

This post is drawn from:

Citation: Passmore, J & Mir, K. (2020). Sea Change: Green Ocean Strategy. SA Coaching News, 2(8). pp13-15

As the global economy emerges from the pandemic, it faces new challenges from rising interest rates and labor shortages. At work , hybrid and WFH, have become common practice. The zoom board has replaced the faced to face meetings. How should organizations develop and manage their people in this new world of work?

The role of coaches in the new world of work

The coaching community has joined the conversation, with explorations of how coaches might contribute, this has been through coaching health workers and supporting people getting back to work in pro-bono coaching, but as the pandemic declines, where will we be? What opportunities for a new start does this offer? We believe that coaches need to embrace a future vision of collaboration, and encourage their clients to do the same.

The limitations of Red Ocean Strategy

In the 19th century, when most of the European and North American economies were growing, the belief at the heart of these companies was that competition was good. This competitive approach to market engagement, is known as Red Ocean Strategy. In this strategy firms fighting toe-to-toe over the same product space. Both are bloody by the fight, but in the end it’s a win-lose strategy. The key business decision is based on the question: Is it profitable? In these companies the coach’s role is to encourage cheaper, faster, better. The key commercial question is: Is it profitable? Coaching is about driving profitability through goals and targets.

green ocean coaching

The benefits of Blue Ocean Strategy

During the 1990s, business strategists started to recognise that the race to the bottom served no one well, least of all business. Simply fighting to provide slighter better versions, or cheaper versions, of the same product, led to lower and lower returns. In response of this race to the bottom, Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne (2004) developed Blue Ocean Strategy. Under blue ocean strategies the coach helps the client to consider new products, markets and opportunities. The key commercial questions are: Is it profitable? Is it legal? Coaching is about enhancing creativity while remaining within legal and pricing considerations.

The potential for a collaborative philosophy in business: Green Ocean Strategy

But in a globally connected world, today’s blue ocean is tomorrow’s red ocean. In most sectors companies have a short window to exploit their creative idea before a lower priced economy arrives with a cheaper version of the innovation. The game is back to win-lose.

But what if there were a different philosophy for business? A philosophy not based on win-loss, domination, exploitative, short-term and global. What if coaches can help clients to think win-win: To think collaborative, participatory, sustainable and local. Where three questions matter: Is it right? Is it legal ? And is it profitable?

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The ethical considerations of Green Ocean coaching

When considering the “is it right?” question, the Green Ocean Coach ensures the moral sensitivity is suitably calibrated to the coaching environment, type of clients and style of coaching. Calibration of moral sensitivity ensures sensitivity in recognising a problem exists. As well as adequately tuning the moral sensitivity, the Green Ocean Coach can distinguish among the different courses of actions, and has the required motivation to follow through choices and the individual traits necessary to execute the ethical plan in spite of obstacles. Paying attention to the question “is it right?” over other questions means the Green Ocean Coach would remove the anxiety and stress with the idea of what happens if our actions become public. When deciding on “is it right?” The Green Ocean Coach considers the needs and voices of other species, generations and other people if they could speak now.

The legal considerations of Green Ocean coaching

When considering the legal question, the Green Ocean Coach encourages their client to consider the systemic legal perspectives. Work across national borders and long supply chains can mean the consumer buying the $5 t-shirt does not see the child labour used to create it.

The profitability considerations of Green Ocean coaching

Thirdly, when considering the profitability, the GOC thinks “we” rather than “me”. Do these actions add value to all involved? What harm may be caused by these actions? Do benefits outweigh harm? The GOC considers the impact on the natural and social environment. The GOC considers the long-term future of their client, and the coach.

Green Ocean Coaching questions

  1. In what ways do your proposed actions enhance the chances of win-win outcomes or behavior?
  2. How do your behaviors promote collaboration internally in your organization?
  3. How do your behaviors promote collaborative working with suppliers, partners and customers?
  4. How would you feel if your actions became public?
  5. What would others (others include peoples, others species, other generations) say about how your behaviors/decisions impact on others if they had a voice to speak now?
  6. How do you seek to set these environmental and social impacts from your work off?


We’ve drawn from business strategy models to craft a new coaching approach which offers a post covid world a chance to learn from our past failures and create a world fair for all.


  • W.C. Kim, and R. Mauborgne, Blue Ocean Strategy. How to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant. Boston: Harvard Business School, 2005
  • AM Watson and A Burns, (2020) Eco-Coaching. In J. Passmore (ed), The Coaches Handbook, Abingdon: Routledge

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Jonathan Passmore is Professor of Coaching & Behavioural Change, Henley Business School, UK

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