Bringing Theory into Practice
Episode #10 of the course Integrative thinking: A practical guide for leaders by Jennifer Riel
Welcome back to the final session of Integrative Thinking: A Practical Guide for Leaders.
In order to create great choices, we need a better thinking process. Currently, we are too ready to accept trade-offs and settle for mediocre solutions. Instead, we need three things to enable great choices: metacognition (the ability to think about our own thinking), empathy (the ability to more fully understand the thinking of others), and creativity (the ability to imagine a world that looks different than today).
A four-stage process for integrative thinking can help us build and leverage these three abilities. The steps in the integrative thinking process are: articulating opposing models, examining those models, generating new possible answers, and assessing prototypes of those possibilities.
Top Five Tips
As we come to the end of this course, I want to conclude with some advice for how to bring integrative thinking into your work and life:
1. Integrative thinking is not an individual skill, but a team sport. When working on a tough challenge, bring together a group of six to eight or so individuals. Most should be invested in the problem and accountable for solving it. But save room for one or two friendly outsiders, who can ask “naïve” questions and challenge the group’s shared assumptions.
2. Plan your discussions around the time you have available. If all you have is an afternoon, work with it. But ideally, give yourself a bit of room and time to reflect, particularly to ruminate on the tensions, assumptions, and cause-and-effect relationships. You may also want to take a break before generating possibilities, to allow for each member of the team to sit with the insights from stage two.
3. Remember that integrative thinking isn’t necessary for every problem. If you have a good answer in front of you, by all means, choose it! But when the problem really matters and the existing solutions don’t seem to solve it well enough, try the integrative thinking process.
4. When you encounter a person with a fundamentally different world view, it is quite natural to want to argue why they are wrong. Instead, pause and ask yourself: What might they see that I do not see? What could I learn from them? Take a breath and reply: “Say more …”
5. If you’re a parent, spend time helping your kids to parse their own thinking, using the ladder of inference. Help them understand that there are many ways to make sense of the world and many possible answers. Everyone, including them, is at least a little bit wrong. But there is always hope that their answers can improve over time. (Oh, and remind yourself of this as well!)
Good luck and enjoy creating great choices!
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