Integrative Thinking

Integrative Thinking

In this article entitled Integrative Thinking, author Graham Douglas explores the differences between critical thinking and integrative thinking and addresses how we are programmed to think critically because of our education and gives us tips about ways of breaking that hard coding. He begins by talking about how our education conditioned us to fix problems by breaking the problem down into parts, look for past data about the parts, analyze trends for the data, and settle on a course for action. He discusses how this gives us a disadvantage in our lives and work. He then discusses the steps to integrative thinking and gives us tips on how to become integrative thinkers. These tips include:

1.   Memorize some general categories to help trigger connections in your mind; for example, people, market, product, money, physical, social and cultural environment.

2. Think integratively more often so you habitually make connections to create a whole new picture rather than habitually break down an old picture into its parts and put it together again with a “facelift.”

3 Wonder, from many angles, about what you have and what you want. Problem solving is simply the negotiating of change from what you have to what you want.

4. Create a sensible narrative connecting your wonderings.

5. Manage your experiences in acting out the narrative.


Would you agree with Douglas when he says that our way of thinking has been manipulated by the education we receive? Do you believe that every person has the potential to become an integrative thinker?

What Makes an Integrative Thinker a Successful Leader?

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The main focus of this article is to deconstruct and describe a capability that comes naturally to successful leaders.  Roger Martin discovers that most leaders share an unusual trait. “They have the predisposition and the capacity to hold in their heads two opposing ideas at once. And then, without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other, they’re able to creatively resolve the tension between those two ideas by generating a new one that contains elements of the others but is superior to both.” This is the process of consideration and synthesis, integrative thinking, that we talked about in class.  Great integrative thinkers tend to be rare because people don’t really exercise this capability.  Martin then explains that this type of work makes most people anxious. Most people tend to avoid complex and ambiguous problems. Most people seek out the comfort of simple and clear issues. People’s first impulse is to determine which of the two models is right and wrong, and sides may even be taken to justify their decision. People must resist their natural leaning toward simplicity and certainty to take advantage of the opposable mind. Martin says that it more of discipline rather than strategy.  He then states “not every good leader exhibits this capability, nor is it the sole source of success for those who do.” But he does believe  that integrative thinking greatly improves people’s odds of becoming a great leader. Martin finally discusses how an integrative thinker’s approach differs from a conventional thinker’s approach in the four stages of decision-making salience, causality, sequencing, and resolution. The conventional thinker would rather accept the world just as it is while the Integrative thinker welcomes the challenge of shaping the world for the better.


Can you become an integrative thinker?

Is this skill being taught in any of your classes?

Have you been exposed to this skill outside of your classes?

Laziness and First Impressions: Barriers to Integrative Thinking

In this article, author Michael Michalko argues that cognitive laziness is one of the greatest barriers to integrative thinking. He points out that first impressions of problems, just like first impressions of people, are narrow and superficial. If this mentality is never changed, it prevents alternative ways of looking at the problem, meaning that integrative thinking will never surface. To remove any biases or assumptions resulting from a first impression, Michalko recommended taking Leonardo DaVinci’s advice: always look at a problem in at least three different ways in order to get a better understanding; or Sigmund Freud: “reframe” a problem in order to transform it and look at it from a different perspective.

This suggests patience. Unfortunately, laziness is inherently the result of impatience.

Thus, cognitive laziness becomes a barrier to entry, the entry point being integrative thinking. In order to gain a deeper understanding of a problem at hand, particularly in a business context, how does one motivate oneself or others in order to get rid of cognitive laziness? Getting rid of biases/assumptions is easier said than done. How would you go about this to achieve integrative thinking? Any thoughts?


With Windows 10, Your Face Will Be Your Password


With Windows 10 right around the corner, Microsoft just Windows Hello. If your computer has the right hardware (being Intel’s RealSense camera), your login password can be your face. It will also be used to unlock a number of online services and applications that are linked to your account. It’s not clear as to how accurate or secure this will be (i.e. What if I just print a picture of a person’s face? Would that allow me to sign in?). If done right, though, then this will probably be a popular and secure feature.

While this in particular may not be disrupting any markets (it’s just a password), it gives a glimpse into how this sort of technology will change the way we access hardware and software, and has great implications for the security industry. For example, imagine if this technology were used in order to gain access to your home. There would be a camera at your door, and the door would unlock only if it recognized your face as being a resident of the house. By bring Microsoft Hello to computers, it will help spread awareness of autonomous technology and the benefits of it.

What do you guys think about this? Is this a good or bad idea? Can you think of any other autonomous technologies could be effectively implemented on personal computers? I personally think this can be a good thing if Microsoft is able to make the software really smart at detecting actual faces from fake ones. However, I don’t think it makes sense to make your face the password. It would make more sense to have your face be the username, or at least a security measure to gaining access to your username.

We can change the way we think!


Summary of “How Successful People Think”

Integrative thinking is in some way or another an art form, but also is something that can be learned, practiced, and built upon throughout a life time. I believe in order to become an integrative thinker we first need to learn how to think better.  “How Successful People Think” by John C Maxwell is a book that addresses 11 skills of a good thinker possess, and how to adopt these skills. These 11 skills are:

1)Big picture thinking

2)Focused thinking

3)Creative thinking

4)Realistic thinking

5)Strategic thinking

6)Possibility thinking

7)Reflective thinking

8)Popular thinking

9)Shared thinking

10)Unselfish thinking

11)Bottom-line thinking

Maxwell’s quote  “If you embrace unpopular thinking and make decisions based upon what works best and what is right rather than what is commonly accepted, know this: in your early years you won’t be as wrong as people think you are. In your later years, you won’t be as right as people think you are. And through all the years, you will be better than you thought you could be.”

Maxwell says we can develop these skills during ordinary daily routines. Does anyone have any ideas how they would practice one of the 11 skills in their daily life?


Practicing Integrative Thinking Skills

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This week in class, we are discussing the art and science of integrative thinking. To learn more about integrative thinking, I explored online for relevant articles. On The Huffington Post’s website, I located an article entitled Becoming an Integrative thinker: The Keys to Success, by Roger Martinthe academic director of an institute of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and author of the article we read for class.

Martin uses the expression “opposable minds” to explain the decision-making styles of successful leaders; he explains that when faced with options, these individuals do not choose the lesser of two evils but instead synthesize a unique option that is superior to its alternatives.

More interestingly, in my opinion, he argues that integrative thinking is a skill rather than an innate ability—one that must be nurtured to develop, as opposed to one assigned by nature.

As I thought more about the prospect of developing one’s integrative thinking skills, I began to wonder what type of practice is best. Should one focus on case studies, or should one aim to tackle real-life problems? Should one type of practice precede the other, or is a mixture of the two optimal?

Lastly, do we already practice our integrative thinking skills more regularly than one might think?

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