The Opposable Mind

The Opposable Mind

How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking

Book - 2007
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If you want to be as successful as Jack Welch, Larry Bossidy, or Michael Dell, read their autobiographical advice books, right? Wrong, says Roger Martin in The Opposable Mind . Though following best practice can help in some ways, it also poses a danger: By emulating what a great leader did in a particular situation, you'll likely be terribly disappointed with your own results. Why? Your situation is different.

Instead of focusing on what exceptional leaders do, we need to understand and emulate how they think. Successful businesspeople engage in what Martin calls integrative thinking creatively resolving the tension in opposing models by forming entirely new and superior ones. Drawing on stories of leaders as diverse as AG Lafley of Procter & Gamble, Meg Whitman of eBay, Victoria Hale of the Institute for One World Health, and Nandan Nilekani of Infosys, Martin shows how integrative thinkers are relentlessly diagnosing and synthesizing by asking probing questions including: What are the causal relationships at work here? and What are the implied trade-offs?

Martin also presents a model for strengthening your integrative thinking skills by drawing on different kinds of knowledge including conceptual and experiential knowledge.

Integrative thinking can be learned, and The Opposable Mind helps you master this vital skill.

Publisher: Boston, Mass. : Harvard Business School Press, c2007.
ISBN: 9781422118924
Characteristics: xii, 210 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.

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Feb 10, 2013

This book was interesting and worth the read but some of the concepts were not clearly explained.

I enjoyed and think Martin's idea of the Integrative Thinker Knowledge System was excellent. It has three interrelated parts. Stance, Tools and Experiences.

In your Stance, you see that existing models don't equal the full complexity of reality and you must be willing to wade into complexity, not try to simplify issues so quickly. You understand that better models exist, believe you can find them, give yourself time to find them. Once found, you leverage them.

The stance you take guides or the tools you use. These tools are generative reasoning (looking at future possibilities), causal modeling and assertive inquiry.In turn, these tools inform your Stance.

The tools you use guide your experiences. Instead of being "And or", you must simultaneously deepen your mastery and nuture your originality (invent). In turn, your experiences inform you tools.

iLibrarian Aug 04, 2009

Do you face problems or decisions that seem like a series of potential tradeoffs? Is there no choice but to just settle for the least worst? The opposable mind by Roger Martin challenges us to learn and practice integrative thinking to generate spectacular outcomes and avoid settling for a simple trade-off.
In the first few chapters Martin shares insights and stories about integrative thinkers from six years of interviews with over 50 highly successful leaders that thought differently from most. His research revealed a theme: these leaders held opposing ideas in their mind and eventually created superior solutions without settling for a simple trade-off or least worst scenario. They produced amazing outcomes and refused to settle for simplification or specialization.
The second half of the book focuses on developing an opposable mind and building thinking capacity. Martin draws on the previous interviews and examples from the first half, and combines them with techniques used to teach MBA students and executives. He goes into depth about a model for your own personal knowledge system that includes what he calls your stance, tools, and experiences. Admittedly it’s not light reading, but Martin teaches you how to exploit the potential of integrative thinking. He gracefully uses examples and case studies to demonstrate the concepts and encourage practice.
One idea that stood out to me was the notion that we must embrace complexity and willingly wade into it, however uncomfortable it may feel. Simplicity is a popular theme these days and intuitively, we know that we can’t cling to it when faced with a difficult business problem that demands a solution far from average.
Martin is convinced that we can train ourselves to generate innovative solutions that are otherwise overlooked or never conceived. So, why settle? The opposable Mind can help you get beyond the obvious trade-offs and catch-22 decisions.


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