Integrative Thinking - Explained
What is Integrative Thinking?
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What is Integrative Thinking?
Integrative Thinking is a decision-making approach that allows for the development of creative solutions rather than merely choosing the best solution from a list of alternatives.
Integrative thinking seeks to eliminate barriers to creativity (fed by rational analysis) and think of new, not yet explored, ideas by drawing upon:
- gut feelings
Integrative thinking is an alternative to critical or analytical thinking.
What are the Steps in Integrative Thinking?
Martin describes a 4 step decision making approach to come to integrative solutions:
- Salience. At this stage information and variables relevant for the decision have to be considered. When we are modeling, the more variables there are, the more complexity and work is introduced. For this reason quite a few managers arrive at the wrong decisions as they try to reproduce a simplified model of reality to test their decisions. Their attempt to reduce complexity results in the ignorance of certain information and variables which may be relevant for the problem solving. Integrative thinkers suggest instead to embrace complexity and consider as many variables as possible. Managers should not limit their job only to inclusion or exclusion of variables, but establish also relevance of those factors salient for their decision. Relying on their ability to perceive – sensitivity - and on their capacity to compare and contrast – discrimination - they should try to spot and assess salient factors.
- Causality. Attentively explore causal relationships between salient factors for your decision and eventual choices. Do not limit your analysis to linear relationships but extend it to non-linear causality and multidirectional causal relationships. Develop multiple causal models and consider many alternative theories.
- Sequencing or Architecture. At this phase you have to decide what is in and what is out, in terms of elements necessary for a decision and their priorities in a timeline. An approach suggested is similar to that one used by painters: still considering the whole, bring the most relevant parts in the foreground and put the secondary ones in the background. When sequencing try to avoid breaking problems into sub-problems, as it may mean losing some relevant causal relationships indispensable for the whole problem resolution.
- Resolution. At this stage it is very difficult to be not too critical and not to see things as black or white. Many managers fearing complexity try to solve their problems by cutting off parts of them. Integrative thinkers are those who keep the appropriate part of each problem still remaining focused on the whole. This phase of the Integrative Thinking process requires a high tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty.