Integrative Thinking

The timeless question of “how can I develop my creativity?” finally has an answer…Integrative thinking. It started out as an observation by Dr. Roger Martin. He observed that great leaders seem dissatisfied with trade-offs.

Issy Sharp, the brilliant mind behind the Four Seasons hotel brand, could not choose between intimate bnbs with a handful of rooms and standardized-service, amenity-rich, convention hotels. Neither did Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of LEGO, choose between producing the LEGO Movie internally, to preserve brand, or hiring Hollywood to produce it with pizazz. They both used a process, outlined by Jennifer Riel and Dr. Roger Martin, to integrate the opposing ideas, using their mind like an opposable thumb to create an integrated solution.

The process of integrative problem-solving starts by defining the problem.

Next, you give your team time to observe all the factors that are important to the problem. Invite as many collaborators as possible. Remember different factors resonate with different people and integrative thinkers consider all perspectives.

Different solutions will emerge. Choose two diametrically opposing solutions. The goal is to pick two solutions that are in tension. It’s easier to pick the best solution and then construct an opposing model.

Make a pro-pro list for the opposing models in the perspective of three target audiences — no cons, because a con of one model is a pro of another (and because cons kill creativity).

With three pro-pro lists, it’s time to map the causality of your favorite pros.

The final step is to creatively integrate your favorite pros, by understanding their causes, into a new model that delivers a superior (more profitable) outcome.

The last part of the process is the trickiest and it’s a matter of stance. The integrative thinker is not constrained by models and thrives in the unknown. He is able to be patient enough to resolve the chaos. He trusts his ability to find a creative resolution, invites every opportunity to broaden his mind. Slowly, but surely the integrative thinker finds a better way.

“The opposable thumb is what we use to create tension against our fingers to grasp and manipulate objects. Similarly, the opposable mind is one that can create tension between ideas, using that tension to develop new answers to challenging problems. Roger called this practice integrative thinking and argued that mastery of it is what sets highly successful leaders apart from the masses.”

“Integrative thinkers have the predisposition and the capability to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in their heads. And then, without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other, they’re able to produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea.”

“My job is to get clearer about my own thinking, opening it to inquiry so that I can better understand my own model of the world .”

Watch Roger Martin break it down 📺

Further Reading: 📖 The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin
📖 Creating Great Choices by Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin
📃 My Eureka Moment With Strategy