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But what about integrative thinking?

After yesterday’s post about speed, price, and quality, a friend of mine from Rotman emailed me and said: but what about integrative thinking?

When I was doing my MBA at Rotman and Roger Martin was the dean, integrative thinking was a significant part of the curriculum and the messaging for the school. 

Here’s how Roger explains it:

Over the past six years, I have interviewed more than 50 such leaders, some for as long as eight hours, and found that most of them share a somewhat unusual trait: They have the predisposition and the capacity to hold in their heads two opposing ideas at once. And then, without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other, they’re able to creatively resolve the tension between those two ideas by generating a new one that contains elements of the others but is superior to both. This process of consideration and synthesis can be termed integrative thinking. It is this discipline—not superior strategy or faultless execution—that is a defining characteristic of most exceptional businesses and the people who run them.

So what my friend was getting at is why – when it comes to speed, price, and quality – do you only get to “pick any two?” Doesn’t that go against the rules of integrative thinking? Isn’t that a failure to look for a more holistic and integrated solution?

It’s a great point. And it’s a thought that crossed my mind while I was writing yesterday’s post. The fact that “something had to give” made me second guess myself.

In general, I’m a believer in integrative thinking. I think there are lots of opportunities to create new hybrid solutions and models that are superior to what might exist today.

But what I was getting at yesterday was perhaps a bit more low level in thinking.

Let’s say for instance you’re a developer constructing a new building and you and your construction manager are in the process of tendering for curtain wall. You receive 3 bids back and 2 of them are roughly the same, but one them is $5 million cheaper.

My immediate thoughts would be: Why is that one bid so much lower? Did they bid on the same scope? Are they missing something? Will the curtain wall arrive on-site on time? And if it does, is it going to leak like a sieve?

I’ll be the first to admit that the construction process is fraught with inefficiencies and ready for integrated solutions. I’m certain that the trade-offs between speed, price, and quality could be better managed.

But more often than not, a rock bottom price usually means that something did in fact give. After all, great integrative thinking is a pretty rare trait.

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