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INTERGRATION THINKING Becominganintegrativethinker

INTERGRATION THINKING Becominganintegrativethinker -...

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BECOMING AN INTEGRATIVE THINKER THE KEYS TO SUCCESS Integrative thinkers share some common traits related to their stance, tools and experiences, which is good news for those of us who aspire to attain their level of decision-making prowess. By Roger Martin
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Rotman Magazine Fall 2007 / 5 OVER THE PAST SIX YEARS, the Rotman School’s Integrative Thinking Seminar Series has hosted a variety of renowned CEOs and thought leaders – everyone from Jack Welch to Michael Dell to A.G. Lafley . My goal when we started the Series was to try to figure out how these highly- successful people think. I was looking for patterns: I wanted to know, ‘what was the thinking that led them to the doing ?’ Was there a common pattern to their mental models? It turns out that there is, and the fact that their thinking patterns can be defined is good news for all of us, as it means that we, too, can learn to become integrative thinkers. It all begins with mental models. Although we’re usually unaware of it, each of us uses models in our thinking. It’s how we make sense of the world. As MIT’s John Sterman explained early in the Series , we think that what we see is what really is; but in fact, what we ‘see’ is based on our mental models, and thus we suffer from ‘naïve realism’: our models become indistinguishable from reality, and what con- stitutes ‘reality’ differs from person to person. The result? Model clash – the most important challenge faced by modern managers. The Four Steps of Decision Making After studying the thinkers featured in the Series to date, I recently revised my model for decision making, which still consists of four steps: 1. The first step is Salience – what do we choose to pay attention to, and what not? In this initial step, we decide what features are relevant to our decision. 2. The second step is Causality . How do we make sense of what we see? What sort of relations do we believe exist between the various pieces of the puzzle? 3. The third [newly-named] step is Architecture , during which an overall model is constructed, based on what we have arrived at in the first two steps. 4. The final step is Resolution : what is our decision based on our reasoning? Integrative thinkers approach each of these steps in a very spe- cific way: they consider more features of the problem as salient to its resolution; they consider multi-directional and non-linear causality between the salient features; they are able to keep the ‘big picture’ in mind while they work on the individual parts of the problem; and they find creative resolutions to the tensions inherent in the problem’s architecture. The interesting part is that everyone builds their understanding of the world around them in a similar manner, either implicitly or explicitly following steps one through four to construct their mental models. The result is ‘clashing realities’: those who don’t agree with our model are seen as either uninformed (‘stupid’) or ill-intentioned (‘evil’), which creates tension, conflict and impasse.
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