I coined the term Integrative Thinking to describe the form of reasoning I observed in my multiyear study of highly successful leaders. I found a strikingly consistent pattern to their thinking approach when they faced unpleasant either/or choices. When faced with opposing options or models, most people simply choose, even if they don’t particularly love either model.
In contrast, these Integrative Thinkers, as I came to call them, aren’t satisfied with simply making an unpleasant trade-off. Instead, they master the ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, they generate a creative solution of the tensions in the form of a new model that contains elements of the individual models, but is superior to each.
In 2007, I published The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking, which describes the features of Integrative Thinking and provides a guide for those who want to cultivate their own Integrative Thinking capacity.
Many people assume that Integrative Thinking is a skill with which one must be born to demonstrate. This is definitively not the case! My colleagues and I have been working with corporate executives, business school students and, more recently, elementary school students in our innovative I-Think program to teach them how to grow their Integrative Thinking capabilities using a set of tools that we have developed since the publication of The Opposable Mind.
It is clear from this teaching experience that anyone who is willing to work at Integrative Thinking can develop the thinking pattern exhibited by the highly successful leaders that I studied.