Category Archives: Roger “Dean” Martin

An Opposable Mind: Business Week interview with Roger Martin on "Integrated Thinking™ " as an approach to solving complex problems

This week in an approach to broaden my problem-solving skills and just after having subscribed to ROTMAN Magazine, I came across this highly interesting Business Week Feedroom interview with Roger Martin, the dean of Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto (thus more often than not named “Dean Martin” by the incident… ;-)), who coined and trademarked the term of Integrated Thinking, promoting a "Design" approach towards solving of complex problems.
   This essentially is based on the assumption, that it may be hard to solve new and complex problems by simply applying already existing "models" derived from challenges successfully managed in the past without having to face significant trade-offs caused by the obvious contradictory nature of these pre-existing solutions.
   What to do, if you are in a highly competitive market (and who isn’t these days…) ?  Cut costs or drive innovation by further increasing them ?
   In his ROTMAN magazine article Choices, Conflict and the Creative Spark [PDF, 385 KB] Roger Martin discusses how a more holistic way of addressing an issue can lead out of the dilemma of having first to choose between and then to act upon one of seemingly contradictory models by instead drawing from all of them to create a completely new approach.

So integrated thinking people are those, who…

…the capacity to hold two diametrically-opposed ideas in their heads. And then, without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other, they are able to produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea.

The advantage:

Integrative Thinking shows us a way past the binary limits of ‘either/or.’ It shows us that there is a way to integrate the advantages of one solution without canceling out the advantages of an alternative solution, affording us, in the words of the poet Wallace Stevens, “the choice not between, but of.”

And despite the common believe, that this integrated way of working on complex issues likely was unique to people mostly considered "geniuses" of their time, Martin argues, that the capability of creating new successful and elegant ideas from (at least by "proven" measures…) opposable concepts indeed may possibly be trained and learned by many of us. This would lead to the de-facto conclusion, that Integrative Thinking is largely a tacit skill in the heads of people who have cultivated their opposable mind.

And at this very point of time Dean Roger Martin and his students are working on a proof of the assumption…