Dec 12, 2010

Winning with integrative thinking

As people responsible to bring in change, we are sometimes faced with problems that seem unsurmountable.I have rarely come across directions on what could be called 'good' problem solving.

Roger Martin in his book 'The Opposable Mind' consolidates research he has done on how some of the most outstanding men and women of our century think (and solve problems). That the research included K V Kamath and (our own) Ramalinga Raju probably makes the book more interesting.

This is what Martin says

Most of us think and decide in almost a sequential manner: To quote the author "We arrive at our choice by considering a set of features we deem salient;creating a mental model of the causal relationships among these features;arranging those causal relationships into an architecture intended to produce a specific outcome;thereby reaching a resolution of the problem at hand". This approach is many cases lead to 'sub optimal' results.

The author then goes on to provide examples like how A.G. Lafley reinvented innovation at P&G to introduce the concept of integrative thinking. Integrative thinking is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in their mind at once , and then reach a synthesis that contains elements of both but actually improves on each.By refusing to accept unpleasent trade-offs and conventional options,integrative thinkers are able to find creative solutions to difficult problems.

Here is a list of take aways regarding integrative thinking that would be useful to us as we attempt to find solutions to problems
  • Seperate (mental) models and reality
    • The author talks about the 'factory setting' each of us have, which in turn means we think in a certain manner
  • Dancing through complexity
        • The need NOT to over simplify
  • Mapping the mind
The author then goes about to talk of how 'integrative thinkers ' connect the dots or the leap of mind.,
The skills required include

  •  Generative reasoning ( a form of reasoning that inquires into what might be rather than what is)
  • Causal modeling and
  • Assertive inquiry ( an ability to explore opposing models)

The author then goes on to talk about the personal knowledge system of an individual as what makes a difference.Time all of us build one, clear in the understanding that ; may be out there; there is an innovative solution to THE problem , that we just have not thought about..

P.S. I attempted to put some of this theory into practice .. end result I started car pooling with some of my colleagues. While saving on fuel was defenitely a goal, what led us to this was too things : Pooling meant that we got out of our offices atleast two days a week on time and we got time to talk together