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Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  632 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
If you want to be as successful as Jack Welch, Larry Bossidy, or Michael Dell, read their autobiographical advice books, right? Wrong, says Roger Martin in The Opposable Mind. Though following best practice can help in some ways, it also poses a danger: By emulating what a great leader did in a particular situation, you'll likely be terribly disappointed with your own resu ...more
ebook, 224 pages
Published December 4th 2007 by Harvard Business School Press (first published 2007)
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Feb 27, 2016 Doug rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Blah blah blah blah,blah ......interesting paragraph .......blah, blah blah blah
Simon Eskildsen
May 27, 2016 Simon Eskildsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, leadership
Opposable Mind is a book about thinking. The book centers around the topic of how to come up with original, creative ideas. This topic definitely deserves a book. It creates a mental model for something I've struggled to put into words for the past year.

Integrative thinking is the theme of the book. This a unique kind of thinking. When you approach a problem, you often find yourself at the end of a spectrum. You engage your opposable mind to locate the other end. You list out the pros and cons o
Dec 10, 2012 Sam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, business
I noticed this in a bookshop when the phrase "integrative thinking" had been floating around my thinking for a little while. So I was intrigued about how someone would define this concept and discuss its usefulness.

The author is the Dean of Toronto's main business school and he writes about how organization leaders use "integrative thinking" to come up with novel and successful solutions.

There are times when the author's definition can seem a bit too close to the old trope of "these, antithese,
Mar 27, 2013 Santosh rated it really liked it
The key idea behind this book is to help business thinkers see beyond the obvious tradeoffs. The author proposes that it is integrative thinking that is the force behind some of the most innovative and successful models that are driving new growth. The cases cited include RedHat, Issy Sharps' Four Seasons Hotels, AG Lafley of Procter & Gamble, Meg Whitman of eBay, Victoria Hale of the Institute for One World Health. When some of these cases are presented in the form of a narrative or a case ...more
Jul 15, 2008 Jer marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wish-list
A snippit from Robert Morris's review on
As I began to read this brilliant book, I was reminded of what Doris Kearns reveals about Abraham Lincoln in Team of Rivals. Specifically, that following his election as President in 1860, Lincoln assembled a cabinet whose members included several of his strongest political opponents: Edwin M. Stanton as Secretary of War (who had called Lincoln a "long armed Ape"), William H. Seward as
Miriam Holsinger
I was expecting this to be another cheesy business book all about how to be successful if only you follow these tens steps... Instead it was actually quite insightful with a clear guide of the benefits to being able to hold contradicting ideas in your head and ruminate on them to come up with new innovative solutions.

The author blew my mind in the first few chapters when he clearly pointed out that what we think of as reality, is just a model of reality we construct with the bits of data we can
Dan Kalmar
Jan 13, 2010 Dan Kalmar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. So good, in fact, that I read it twice. Essentially breaks down the fact that in business, successful leaders don't choose between either/or situations, they find distinct value in a new option that takes the best of both without any of the tradeoffs. Well written and a quick read.
Philip Binkley
Feb 28, 2014 Philip Binkley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well researched. Interesting success stories shared.
Fred Darbonne
Feb 27, 2014 Fred Darbonne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roger Martin presents the discipline of “integrative thinking,” an application of systems thinking that allows a leader to hold two apparently opposing choices or problems in creative tension and, rather than choosing between the two, instead generate a creative resolution with an innovative new possibility, a third way. This read would benefit anyone who must make difficult decisions, find creative resolutions to opposing dilemmas, or who desires to advance their creative thinking skills.

Mar 27, 2008 Brent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leadership
This is a must read for anyone wanting to understand how to leverage creative thinking and understand how to come up with "and" solutions instead of "either or." The main concept is built upon a feedback system of salience, causality, architecture, and resolution. An integrative thinker will consider more features of a problem salient, consider multidirectional and nonlinear causality, visual the whole while working on individual parts, and search for creative resolutions of tensions. Another ma ...more
Cathy Allen
I named my consulting business "Creative Option C" to stand for the alternative that people must create whenever they appear to be deadlocked between two other choices. For example, House Republicans are insisting that lowering taxes and cutting entitlement spending is the only way to reduce the deficit and grow the economy. President Obama and Senate Democrats say that ending tax cuts for the wealthiest among us and investing more in the middle class in the short term is the path to the same en ...more
Jason Walker
What do you say to a book that mixes politics and modern dance? This is an interesting book and well worth the time to read. For anyone putting together a business model or trying to reinvent the workplace this book is a great read. It has a further reach in that it is a reminder that in a modern civics situation where taxes and government are compared to a million other things we are reminded that those comparisons don't weigh anything other than the politics: we can be good stewards of public ...more
Jeff Bobin
I picked this up after it was referred to in another book I was reading as part of a study on how we think and make decisions as well as communicate with one another. This came out of a study on leadership and what makes a great leader and how we decide who we will follow. These two thoughts are drawn together here as the author describes the value of thinking from multiple perspectives.

The ability to examine, learn and understand from the way another thinks is vital to leading a person or orga
David Eden
Apr 28, 2013 David Eden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The basic idea of the book is that tension between seemingly conflicting ideas can lead to better ideas, but you need to make the effort to really engage the conflicting ideas. This is perhaps at the heart of Martin's conception of Integrative Thinking; it's not just another name for "interdisciplinarity" as I once thought.

Roger kindly refers to me in page xi of the Acknowledgements: " A former student, Dave Eden, introduced me to a century-old Science article by Thomas Chamberlin that figured m
Marc Resnick
Aug 09, 2011 Marc Resnick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a bad book, but probably goes into more detail than most people would need. The best insight is that our brains have a tendency to oversimplify (limit the size) and overspecialize (limit the scope) problems to make them easier to solve. But then the solution is limited in size and scope. He wants us to practice reserving judgment on decisions and concentrate on expanding the size and scope to find bigger, more powerful solutions. One method for doing this is the play devil's advocate with ou ...more
Sep 16, 2013 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto argues for "integrative thinking' - the ability to hold two opposed ideas in one's mind at the same time and reach a creative solution that is not either one of those ideas. He says we tend to defend positions rather than seek solutions. Then he creates a paradigm for crative problem solving through the kind of thinking that creates new models rather than operating out of exisiting ones. If this topic intersts you ...more
Aug 08, 2015 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: economics
The opposable mind is an interesting theory to have investigated. Martin does an extremely good job of researching and explaining the concept, and it is to the author's credit that he has introduced study of the idea at the Rotman School of Management.

An opposable mind is one that can hold opposing views without bias skewing the outcome. In business this equates to taking two contradictory ideas and finding a middle ground with uses the positives of both in order to construct a winning strategy.
Jan 12, 2010 Rhiannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never believe you must settle for this OR that. Martin breaks down case by case how the best minds always design an option that includes this AND that. This may be a business book (and I may want to move to Canada just to take a class with this guy at Toronto) but it can read like a self-help book for someone like me, i.e. operating with two ideas in my head almost constantly. Read this and rest assured that with the proper training we can all learn to see the third option no one is talking abou ...more
A one-note book. I picked this up on the recommendation of Malcolm Gladwell. Martin makes an interesting point based on his interviews with very successful people - the value of being able to hold two opposing thoughts and create something new rather than making a compromise by choosing either of the two choices. Thinking "and" instead of "but" or "or." But like so many similar books, the concept could be aptly described in an essay rather than a book. And it doesn't really deal with those situa ...more
Ilya Mrz
Jan 09, 2015 Ilya Mrz rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ms, 2015

Many hard business problems must be tackled with creativity.
Creativity requires “integrative” rather than “binary” thinking.
To develop it, “reverse engineer” how you solve problems.
Think in terms of models of reality.
Beware of excessive simplification.
Don’t be limited by specialization.
Learn to see the many types of causality.
Use “abduction” to generate hypotheses about problems.
Inquire about others’ ideas rather than just advocating your own.
You must master your area and be original.
Apr 13, 2009 Lydia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very interesting read, unpacking the way creative thinkers make their decisions. It can apply to many areas of life, including business decisions. The book is not really a "how-to" and at the end I felt stimulated, wanting to know more, feeling like I'm at the beginning of finding out about integrative thinking. I loved the concept of reverse engineering as a way of debriefing an outcome. Also his highlighting the way we go into defensive mode to defend our ideas against alternatives, ...more
Apr 15, 2010 Gerald rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: insight
I wanted to like this book but the more I read the more I realized that I had heard it all before and so rather than sounding fresh and exciting, The Oppossable Mind just sounded like parts of Freakanomics, Outliers, The Tipping Point and others. There were some memorable examples of how creative problem solving can lead to great results, but I personally lost my way about a third of the way through this one and never got back on track. Another positive aspect for me was found in several of the ...more
Rob Cantrall
May 31, 2011 Rob Cantrall rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The idea here is that you shouldn't settle for an "or" situation, the "zero-sum" solution, but rather look for integrative solutions that enable both 'sides' of an issue. Certainly easier said than done, though the author is able to cite some fairly impressive examples along these lines. Not the most fascinating read, but worth taking up merely to stretch one's mind in a couple new directions. It does contain reasonably tactical advice for how to achieve opposable thinking.
Mar 08, 2015 Gwen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved the metaphor as an approachable one to frame the positive aspects of holding multiple viewpoints as a gateway to new solutions. But, the concepts require more than an intellectual curiosity to practice.

Even for groups who stretch to grapple with multiple viewpoints, they error on the side of looking for consensus. I think it's because there is an emotional/social field to be cultivated before teams engage in integrative thinking and generative conversations.

Jul 21, 2014 Phillip rated it it was amazing
A brilliant book and a must read for anyone interested in the process of creative problem solving, as well as different methods of thinking.

I particularly like the sections on reality models, they bare relevance to Carl R. Roger's On Becoming A Person and I think that it is something everyone could benefit from reading.

It's easy to read and digest. Roger Martin has done an excellent job of making an otherwise complex topic accessible to many.
Jan 03, 2016 Ned rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book that describes the thinking process that leads to solution that transform business and economies. The authors provides examples and explanations for the thinking process that he allows to hold two opposable ideas and come up with one that is better than the both. Some of the conclusions and mechanisms are overlapping with some techniques described in other books, like in Decisive and Drive.
Sep 19, 2010 Andy rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
Good book on looking at solutions that are not always obvious choices. It is looking at how we think and how most of us miss the models (or opportunities) that exist. This can be applied to looking for growing a business or working out what appears to be a conflict (opposable models). I'm sure I'll be able to use these strategies in my current and future positions.
Jaidev Shah
i found this book a little general in terms of what the author is trying to achieve. it is a great book but only for those who have experience that they have a stance, tools and experience that others do not. if people have no concept of stance in any form then they will find this book utterly useless. this is a great book but will always be underestimated.
Apr 29, 2008 Wfranklin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good, easy read on integrative/design/holistic/systems thinking in relation to leadership - much of it based on interviews with leaders and innovators. Great insights as to how integrative thinkers approach complex, ambiguous problems by taking a bigger picture view without oversimplifying. Interesting read and some good takeaways although some parts can be a bit prescriptive.
Jun 04, 2012 Crysta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: imc-classes
Interesting and thought-provoking... Martin explains why you shouldn't seek either/or solutions and walks through several case studies of using integrative thinking to come up with creative answers. The first half of the book was great, but seemed to get a bit muddy towards the end. Worth the read, though.
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“You can’t make a renaissance person anymore, because the range of what you would need to do is just impossible. But you could actually assemble a renaissance team.”7 The integrative thinkers rely on their “renaissance teams” to broaden salience, maintain sophisticated causality, and create a holistic architecture in their drive for creative resolution.” 0 likes
“simplification, 80–20 style, leads to more business as usual.” 0 likes
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