An integrative thinker, according to Roger Martin, rejects binary frameworks and either/or decision-making, instead seeking synthesis between apparently opposed options.
The integrative thinker evinces four key qualities:
- They embrace "the mess." Witnessing the problem space in all its complexity assures them that nothing has yet been filtered out. This means that they can take a broad view of what is salient to the problem space.
- They consider non-linear and multi-directional relationships between data. They consider more complex modes of causality.
- They don't break problems into multiple discrete pieces, each to be solved separately. They realize the problem is more than the sum of its parts, and that the most effective solution must consider the situation holistically.
- They strive to resolve tensions, not accept unpleasant trade-offs.
- Salience is subjective - Integrative thinking recognizes that our perspective on what matters is subjective and personal.
- Specialization narrows our perspective on what is salient to a problem - Adopting only the perspective of our specialization limits our ability to recognize what is salient.
- Put mental models in conversation with one another - Integrative thinkers apply multiple and even contradictory mental models to expand their lens on what is salient.
Martin, Roger L. The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking. 1st edition. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Review Press, 2007.