Have you ever eaten a really good book and heard yourself say, “why this little gem was absolutely delicious?” Not the kind that you eat at your desk or rush through in between subway stops…the type that you savor as you think and act on its pages. A book that urges you to put down your mental fork and pause for a minute to take it all in.
This is how I felt during my most recent experience with,
The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking
In it, Roger Martin defines integrative thinking as,
The ability to constructively face the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each.
If there were ever a time in need of integrative thinking it is now. A time when we are responsible for coming up with solutions to many of today’s complex challenges in order to meet the demands of our new world. And with that, supporting and evolving with the changing needs of our cherished customers, talent force, sustainability efforts, education system, new business models… and the list goes on.
It is a time that requires us to reject the limitations set forth by conventional thinking and allow ourselves to accept more complexity into the equation, “embracing the mess” as Martin puts it. By welcoming even more features of a problem into our innovation efforts and maintaining a holistic view, we will be better equipped to create and develop new breakthrough solutions that are so desperately needed today.
Integrative vs. Conventional Thinking
The Opposable Mind is a book that starts at a high level and digs deeper as you get a taste of the process through examples. Martin also writes about innovative leaders who have demonstrated their abilities to work past the choices and trade-offs so readily apparent, and the first to unveil themselves at each stage. He breaks down the complexities of each step to get to the core of the idea challenging the reader to look at themselves and pull/push for more.
Here is a high level overview and illustration of what is covered in the first half of the book,
The Personal Knowledge System
In the second half of the book, the “personal knowledge system” is introduced, where we learn about stance, tools and experiences and the effect that they have have on one another. This is an incredible book and one that requires a thoughtful read. I highly recommend it.
As we work through this next evolution in business, redefine what we once knew as "best practices," and establish new metrics and benchmarks for success... it will also require time and self-reflection. As much as our processes and measurements will change, we too may need to make some personal adjustments as we move forward, try different things and embrace new methods.
I will leave you with an interview referenced in the book with the author (who is also the Dean of the Rotman School of Management) and Peter Drucker. I promise, this is well worth your time.
Please feel free to join in using the comments section below. I would love to hear from you.
PS. Thank you Jeffrey Pajer for creating the image at the top of the page :)