Integrative Thinking

I have long been a fan of Henry Mintzberg.  In fact from the mid 90’s when I wrestled with his tome “The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning” I knew I would have to linger longer at his lectern….

“Organizational effectiveness does not lie in that narrow minded concept called rationality. It lies in the blend of clearheaded logic and powerful intuition”
― Henry Mintzberg

HenryMintzberg

This “blend” of logic and intuition is directly in sympathy with his fellow Canadian, Roger L. Martin.  A clear blog on this is here written by the also clear-minded Liviu Nedelescu.  This integrative thinking attains the best of both worlds (logic vs intuition), not by averaging them, but by transcending and unifying them.

This reminds me of a shadow parable.   Here is picture of a shadow cast by a seemingly haphazard array of 3D objects:

Kumi Yamashita’s “Profile (1994)” (Wood, Light, Cast Shadow/H150 cm x W300 cm x D8 cm) The letters and numbers scattered on the wall, lit from the left, cast a silhouette of a man’s face.

The main problem we have – in my opinion – in our modern world is that we perceive our biggest challenges at too-low-a-level.

This is sometimes paraphrased in the following well-known form:

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.

― Albert Einstein

This challenge is better understood in another of recent Liviu’s blogs.  In it, he encourages us (like one calling to those about to leap into the lake from a high ledge above) with, “The end of certainty is where the fun really begins.”

I suppose one person’s fun, is another’s terror.  My point is however that for many of our current challenges (economic, social, political, religious, etc.) we need to at least occasionally get “up on the balcony”.  This latter phrase is from Heifetz and Linsky who (for me) write most powerfully on “Adaptive Leadership” which directly addresses these messy, integrative challenges (or wicked problems, as some call them).

The bad news for “experts”, is that all of the thinkers above say these adaptive challenges are not their domain-of-expertise.  This is where courageous leadership is called for.

Once again, as a knowledge worker, I am somewhat dismayed when the leadership-as-the-answer “solution” is evoked.  I, as a learned person, would dearly love to have the “answer” at hand and so help win the day.  But I must become more humble in my ambitions if I want to be of value…

“To attain knowledge, add things everyday. To attain wisdom, remove things every day.”

― Lao Tzu

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