My LAUNCH buddy James Parr of Imaginals recommended Roger L. Martin’s book, “The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win through Integrative Thinking” for my PhD research on Social Intrapreneurship. Martin explores what he calls integrative thinking — a pattern of thinking (cognitive discipline) that relies on cultivating the opposable mind.
The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless yet be determined to make them otherwise.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Martin walks through a process of mapping the mind by identifying
- stance: who you are and what you’re after,
- tools: knocking the world into shape, and
- experiences: where stance and tools meet the world (i.e. sensitivities and skills).
Personal knowledge is comprised of these three elements of Martin’s mind map. Breaking down the elements, an integrative thinker’s stance will recognize the gap between reality and possibilities, refusing to accept that the best options are on the table. An integrative thinker imagines a reality that doesn’t exist, and creates the models to bring it into being.
“Integrative thinkers reason about what MIGHT be — about models that don’t yet exist — to generate a creative resolution. — Martin”
I’m intrigued by his discussion of generative reasoning, which he describes in three forms of logic. The first two are best known. The third, less discussed:
- deductive logic — the logic of what should be,
- inductive logic –the logic of assumption that certain observations can be generally applied, and
- abductive logic – leapfrog logic that requires creative thinking.
Charles Sanders Peirce, the founder of American Pragmatism, coined the term adductive logic, which seeks the best explanation for misfit data that doesn’t fall nicely under the current models. To take this a bit further, enough misfit data and we’re are often forced into a Thomas Kuhn paradigm shift in thinking. Martin argues that integrative thinkers (entrepreneurs/intrapreneurs) rely on generative reasoning as the only tool that can bring about creative solutions to intractable problems.
The raw material for integrative thinking — via generative reasoning — is “what does not YET exist.”
I’m extremely fortunate to work with an amazing group of integrative thinkers with the LAUNCH team, LAUNCH Council, and LAUNCH Innovators. We wrestle with how best to dislodge intractable sustainability issues that face the 7 billion+ of us who share this planet, as well as the six human living onboard the International Space Station. Stay tuned for our upcoming LAUNCH sustainability challenge focused on the materials system. We’ll convene a conversation with abductive thought leaders from industry, government, and non-profits to create new solutions and new models to bring about global paradigm shifts in the way we make and use the scarce resources — or create new options no one has yet considered.
All you leapfroggers, UNITE! Together, we can create a new reality if we use our opposable minds and abductive brainwaves.