How to Improve Your Decision Making Ability by Integrative Thinking

According to the famous Porchlight Book Company, humans are born with natural opposable minds. Which means they can hold two conflicting ideas at the same time.

It can produce tension as one thought could go in one direction and others can take a 180-degree turn.

We can use the tension to form different ideas keeping both scenarios in mind while making decisions. This phenomenon is called Integrative Thinking.

Integrative thinking is a term coined by Roger Martin in his book The Opposable Mind in order to explain how leaders consider opposable solutions and make a third but unique way out of the two to succeed.

The idea of Integrative Thinking is more of If-else-then-that (Multiple complex options) rather than Either-or (Two straightforward options).

However, the takeaways from the book can be useful for us too. Let us take a simple example to get a gist of Integrative Thinking

Traditional Thinking

Shopkeeper: Do you want Apple or Banana or Mango?

You: I will go with Apple as it has the most nutrient value.

Integrative Thinking

Shopkeeper: Do you want Apple or Banana or Mango?

You: Can I have a mixed fruit salad? In this way, I could get the highest nutrient value.

The point is not about the quantity or pricing. It is you can make the best out of the given options.

As an article on Research gate says

Decision making is considered one of the most valuable assets in today's world.

Here are 4 Stages of a thought process that Integrative Thinker goes through and below each stage, there is a simple guide for us to follow if we want to march toward a similar mindset. This can lead us to make better decisions if you are at the management level, own a business or a startup, are a solopreneur or entrepreneur.


Put Extremes on Frontline. Seek For Less Obvious

If there are two potential factors to a problem, an integrative thinker will build tension by emerging a third way based on those two factors. Usually, people avoid running into complexity and find either of the factors as the final solution. However, Integrative Thinkers embrace complexity.

Integrative Thinkers try hard not to eliminate necessary actions during processes as it may backfire later. It does not matter if setting the foundation takes a while as it sets a good starting point to come back for future reference always. They set the foundations for the emergence theory. Emergence theory is a fundamental part of Systems Thinking.

Emergence is the outcome of the synergies of the parts; it is about non-linearity, and self-organization, and we often use the term ‘emergence’ to describe the outcome of things interacting together. — Leyla Acaroglu

How You Can Do It

Enlist the options: Make sure you have all the options in front of you before even considering the two extremes. Cut out the obviously wrong ones to reduce the range of action.


Analyze The Options

When it comes to analyzing and comparing, conventional thinkers compare Factor A to Factor B. The only ones that are available and obvious. This approach limits the variables and complexity. The untouched corner of an idea.

Its outcome is linear in simple terms. Straight lines and slopes are easier to analyze than curves and parabolic graphs.

Integrative Thinkers see the ideas beyond the picture. They combine strategy and consider reading between the lines as a favourable path.

How You Can Do It

Now that we have got options in front of us, we should analyze its cause and effects. By strategizing and considering the shadow options that we tend to overlook as conventional thinker, we would see unconventional ways of solving problems.


A View From Above

When we have a new business model, we tend to keep it in the centre and branch out various variables. This tends to create fragments in the business model and there is some sort of standardization involved. No Integrative Thinker will shy away to bring all those fragments together to find the most effective outcome for that particular business model.

Integrative Thinkers consider a top view, they can see a blueprint of the situation. They consider the whole picture, no matter how messy it gets. This is where they stand out.

It is a decision-making area where Integrative Thinkers consider all the complexities and uniqueness to get to the solutions. The decision is taken with respect to cause-effect relationships between various features. They ensure that to make a good decision, the actions must be efficient rather than standardized.

Sometimes, it is higher management that argues not to go toward complexity and to work it out separately.

According to Roger Martin:

The order in which you make these decisions will affect the outcome.

For this, a holistic view from an integrative Thinker is beneficial. They can interlink the ideas that could bring a better solution. Making accurate decisions is never a case but making decisions that yield a maximum output with available options is what makes them unique.

How You Can Do It

Look at the greater picture. The look from above is usually where you would find your blueprint. You will be able to gauge your options and pick the best ones to go deep down. However, before that, ask yourself are the dots connecting and making sense? If not, we can go back and reconsider the options.


A Wise Comeback — Solution

The outcome here should be the summation and average of all great decisions taken. If the initial three stages are done based on conventional thinking, the outcome may not be extraordinary.

According to an article by The University of Toronto:

The major part of this step is when you test your outcome. Consider people’s feedback and take it seriously.

The more you are open to feedback, the cleaner your outcome will become. If they must consider going back to fix a certain thing at a certain stage, they have all the process in place so it will not be much of a hassle to go back and fix the problem.

How You Can Do It

This stage is for testing. Compare the best options for A/B testing and work on what serves you best.


Integrative Thinking is a discipline where if once become a habit, we have a different approach while getting through complex situations.

The key is to avoid a common, simple & well-defined approach. Integrative thinkers take a path of uncertainty that opens up the next level on a non-linear thinking radar. This in turn opens up greater opportunities with the same resources.

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