Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Integrative Thinking, Part 2: Salience

In The Opposable Mind, Roger Martin (2007) defines integrative thinking:

The ability to face constructively 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.
Notice the time factor. Integrative thinking is a form of creative thinking, and creativity requires a pause between initially getting information and moving to application. I often use the term percolate to describe this pause, as in, “I don’t know yet. I need to let the idea percolate.”

During this pause, integrative thinking rejects neither opposing idea. Instead, it explores each and constructs something new—something that possesses traits of each idea but generates a result/solution better than either opposing idea.

This exploration begins as the thinker analyzes the opposing ideas to identify “salient” (i.e., relevant, important) elements (p. 29). What about Idea A is noteworthy? potentially beneficial? logical? accurate? The same analysis is made of Idea B, the opposing idea. This analysis produces a list of desirable traits/characteristics/features that are desired in a new idea.

To illustrate this analysis for salience, Martin presents Isadore Sharp’s story. When Sharp entered the hotel business, two models dominated. Hotels were either large and offered a myriad of amenities or small and offered just the necessities. Pulling from both models, Sharp designed a hotel with the amenities frequent travelers needed and an emphasis on personal service. This model became the Four Seasons line of hotels. “Rather than choose one of the existing models and accept the downside it entailed, Sharp used his opposable mind to hold the two models in his head, roll them around, and design a creative resolution of the tension between them” (p. 31).

Challenge yourself to apply this factor of integrative thinking. Choose two opposing ideas (e.g., teaching through hands-on activity vs. teaching through lecture). Can you analyze the ideas, identifying salient elements of each? Write a list and keep it handy. In the next posting, we’ll explore the second feature of integrative thinking: causality.

Sources: Martin, R. (2007). The opposable mind
. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very Good post on Integrative Thinking.

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