The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking. Roger L. Martin. Harvard Business Review Press.

The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking Book Cover The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking
Roger L. Martin
Harvard Business Review Press
October 29, 2007

What distinguishes a brilliant leader from a conventional one? In this insightful book, Roger Martin shows that brilliant leaders are skilled in integrative thinking – the ability to hold two opposing ideas in their minds at once, and then reach a synthesis that contains elements of both but improves on each.

Most managerial decisions are made by examining the pros and cons of the present alternatives, then eliminating all but one. Conventional thinkers focus only on obviously relevant features, break problems into pieces and work on them separately, and settle for what they perceive to be the best available options.

But truly successful leaders try not to make “either-or” decisions. By seeking factors that are not immediately obvious, considering nonlinear relationships among variables, and seeing the problem as a whole, they are able to resolve tensions among opposing ideas and generate innovative outcomes.

Drawing on stories of leaders as diverse as a G. Lafley of Procter & Gamble and Bob Young of Red Hat Software, Martin shows how, by refusing to accept unpleasant trade-offs and conventional options, integrative thinkers are able to find creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.

But is integrative thinking a talent reserved for fortunate few? Not at all: Martin believes it is a “habit of thought” that all of us can consciously develop to arrive at solutions that would otherwise not be evident. We can train ourselves to craft innovative solutions and to resist settling for the best available better choice. This book shows us the way.

A bestselling author, Roger Martin is dean at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. Roger was formerly a director of Monitor Company, a global strategy consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a columnist at BusinessWeek Online and a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and the Financial Times.