Wednesday, February 4, 2009

“Integrative Thinking”: Part 1

Everyone has opinions. Some are informed opinions. Others are judgements reached in the absence of evidence. For example, much to my wife’s dismay, I know that I do not like shrimp. I also claim that I do not like calamari. One informed opinion (I’ve unfortunately tasted shrimp) and one judgement formed without evidence (I’ve never actually tasted calamari).

Fine, suggests Roger Martin in his book The Opposable Mind, but can you consider two opposing ideas at the same time. While it may be difficult for me to think simultaneously that I do and do not like shrimp, I could potentially consider two sides of an argument. For example, government spending is a means of economic stimulus vs. government spending fails as a means of economic stimulus. The ability to hold such two opposing ideas in one’s mind often leads to “a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea” (Martin, 2007, p. 6).

Martin refers to this ability as “integrative thinking” (p. 6), and claims that such thinking can produce insights that holding to only one thought cannot. Furthermore, Martin claims integrative thinking leads to better solutions than considering only one idea. In his research, leaders who possessed integrative thinking made significant breakthroughs that benefitted their organizations.

What, then, are the attributes and components of integrative thinking? and how can we help students develop this worthwhile capacity? We’ll be exploring these ideas in future postings.

By the way, Dr. Ginger Campbell, friend and host of the Brain Science Podcast, was featured in several Alabama newspapers recently. Check out the article here.

Sources: Martin, R. (2007). The opposable mind: How successful leaders win through integrative thinking. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

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