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The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,106 ratings  ·  125 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
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published October 29th 2007 by Harvard Business Review Press (first published 2007)
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Simon Eskildsen
May 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 15, 2008 marked it as to-read
Shelves: wish-list
A snippit from Robert Morris's review on Amazon.com
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
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Shane Parrish
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Roger Martin talks about the value of integrative thinking and keeping the entire problem in your mind.
"The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each.


Integrative thinkers don’t break a problem into independent pieces and work on each piece separately. They keep the entire prob
Toni Tassani
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
Through examples of leaders in companies such as P&G, Red Hat or Four Seasons Hotels the author presents the his idea of "Integrative Thinking": the capacity to hold two diametrically opposing ideas in the head and produce a superior one. It's about going away from "either-or" thinking.
The author suggests a process and tools to cultivate this Opposable Mind (with the idea of the opposable thumbs).
He talks about models of reality, filters, introduces tools from George Lakoff and Chris Argyris, an
Isaac Perez Moncho
Dec 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Pretty good, but I was expecting more from it.
I bought this book because the author was interviewed in a podcast I listened to and I was impressed by his way of thinking.
The book does have little nuggets of useful information and mainly explores the theme of not making trade-offs to achieve success in ways that making the trade-offs would not have made possible.
It kind of makes you believe you should ditch trade-offs and not compromise ever, which I think it's unrealistic. However, it is a good
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
Vinos Samuel
Dec 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must read per #malcolmgladwell 🙃 and now #metoo 😜
The premise of this book is this quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald - "the test of first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function"
The #book highlights the fact that the world we live in is #multidimensional and our default internal factory setting of sticking to certain #mentalmodels as true and be trapped in #confirmationbias such that we exclude all other models of
Sep 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 stud ...more
Jay Rain
Apr 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Rating - 6.9

An intriguing opening w the Lee-Chin example & the shortcomings of other business reads but the Integrative Thinking concept falls short as it is more business sense than a new way of thinking

Other shortcomings include fellatio-like examples/accolades that don't really prove a point & the constant Rotman promotion that is littered throughout; Be a little bit better everyday is a good edict

Aug 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
I didn't find the link between profiles particularly strong, nor was this useful guidance on how to find the third option - just demonstration that some successful people have found the third option. It felt more like he was looking for proof of his thesis than that the information he had led strongly to the opposable mind conclusion ...more
Dan Kalmar
Jan 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Aug 26, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great concept, boring book

Suffers from business/executive book inflation syndrome. The first three chapters are great and are all you need to read. Skip the rest and do something productive with your life instead.
Philip Binkley
Feb 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well researched. Interesting success stories shared.
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
The simple idea of finding a new solution that lies within two different existing solutions is something that will stick with me throughout my career. Too often I take the information given to me and treat it as reality. The six stances and the discussion of finding better models will serve us well, as we work for an organization that is not satisfied with good enough or the way we’ve always done something. We are constantly striving to learn how to work smarter and to leverage new ideas, and th ...more
Andrew Carr
Apr 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable, albeit light book on how to think about dilemmas. Martin makes two essential arguments.

First, we must remember that how we view the world is always a set of models. Should your business aim to serve a local community intimately, or a global community remotely? Are you high quality and high price, or low cost but also lower quality? etc. These forms don't exist as real things, but are ways of understanding the world.

Second, as creative models of reality, we can and should try and
Chad Hogan
Oct 14, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5. Mostly a business book but would recommend to general readers who are interested in improving their ability to make decisions and find creative solutions to problems. I learned of this book from a list of Malcom Gladwell's favorite books and it did not disappoint.

While the overall gist could be summed up in a couple of sentences, as with so many of these type of books, reading about the actual steps and studying the various real-life stories and scenarios really drove the point home and mak
Warren Mcpherson
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thinking about thinking. This is an exploration of complex decision making. "Integrative Thinking" is the alternative to the efficient decision making we use every day become accustomed to using for all decisions. This is partly a reminder that we tend to simplify and specialize in ways that at times can be limiting. This book looks at the process of decision making. In particular, significant decisions between conflicting options with unpalatable constraints create a situation where a deep unde ...more
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting concept. However, it’s not very practical in application. It’s easy to observe after the fact but hard to implement unless you’re very experienced or naturally inclined this way. Martin weakly argues otherwise.

Cool stories, but very few that I haven’t read elsewhere already. Also, I find there is a startling difference in tone between business books written 1999-2007ish versus before or after this time. Most books written in that era seem to have a very assumptive, almost cocky way o
Sep 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Coming from the non-business background I always had a tendency to split one big problem into smaller pieces and figure them out one by one, so I am excited to learn about the limitations of this approach and eager to try integrative thinking in my field. In addition to that, I liked the anecdotes about the CEOs experiences. However, the author haven't presented any negative examples, when even the most powerful integrative thinker failed, I am sure there is no way to attain experience without f ...more
This book provides some nice visual graphics to help one better understand the anatomy of models and the personal knowledge systems we use to build the models. Concepts are defined and some procedural steps outlined within the graphics. Real life examples are utilized as well to demonstrate how a particular concept was applied. However, while reading this book I always felt like I was on the cusp of discovering the secret of integrative thinking, but not there yet. Is it necessarily the author's ...more
Robert Bogue
Conflict is a good thing. Conflict between our fingers and our thumb – our opposable thumb – created the ability to create tools and ascend to the most dominant lifeform on the planet. In The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking, we learn how it wasn’t just the mechanics of our members but the integrative nature of our intelligence that has really allowed us to remain king of the biological mountain on this planet.

Read more
Kunal Arya
Nov 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
essential message conveyed is basically successful leaders always have integrative thinking. It is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in their minds at once and then come to a best new idea which contains elements of both but improves on each. this book is written on covering high level thinking skills.
I recommend this book essentially for those who are working in management field or have some entrepreneurial prospects or want to notch up the leadership way
after a long time a book which is
Flavio Zanetti
Sep 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
What an amazing book that asks us to reflect about integrative thinking as opposed to either or when making a decision.

According to the author, “the world has not organized itself to produce integrative thinkers as it does brain surgeons or computer engineers” and I can definitely see where he is coming from as more and more folks are doing more of the same as opposed to having opposable minds.

Highly recommend if you are into business or strategy books as it touches on concepts that are very use
Viktor O.
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It is always difficult to create a review to a book, which is written by my old Friend. The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking deserves to be regarded as a masterpiece of modern thinking in the management science. All the categories of thinking readers must pay a great attention to this book. I believe that the book is aimed to educate a new generation of wise thinking leaders!!!!
Sep 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Structured, compact and very useful. It highlights a way of deliberate thinking that's obvious but is often taken for granted.
That said the book could be summarized, without losing any of its essence, in 2 A4 size pages regular font. The real life stories, while flavorful and engaging, aren't particularly necessary to the crux of the book. If you've absorbed the few flow diagrams in the book, you've gotten most of what you might want from it.
Nevertheless, a good read.
Jan 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Good solid book.

Enjoyed how in the beginning of the book he gently dragged the stereotypes of other business books.

Great suggestions in understanding how people have different ideas of reality and taking the time to listen and understand.

As well as find solutions in apparently opposing situations.
Mark Donovan
Mar 27, 2021 rated it it was ok
A few nuggets, but mostly chaff. Too much intangible business jargon (his word of choice integrate, might as well be 'synergy').

I'm a bit skeptical and tired of cliche story of the big-time ceo using his gut to take a risk and save the company. Someone should write a book about all the failed ceos.
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
The book is interesting and provides some amazing points about improving one's thought process. However, it is sometimes hard to understand what the author is trying to say or how to actually apply the principles nd become better at integrative thinking. ...more
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Roger Martin is the Institute Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute and the Michael Lee-Chin Family Institute for Corporate Citizenship at the Rotman School of Management and the Premier’s Chair in Productivity & Competitiveness. From 1998 to 2013, he served as Dean. Previously, he spent 13 years as a Director of Monitor Company, a global strategy consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachu ...more

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