• Priya Venkatesan

Integrative thinking


One of the common heartburns at the workplace are conflicts - not being able to see eye to eye with colleagues, high-ups, team members etc.


The amount of mental suffering my clients have with conflicts is mind boggling.

A lot of energy is wasted in speculation about who the other party "is" as a person, why they do what they do and why its humanely impossible to work with the other person.


Conflicts intensify from a disagreement. Disagreements arise when two parties adopt the ‘my way or high way’ approach. This extreme tendency arises when there is too much attachment to one’s point of view (PoV) to the extent that only one view (ours) seems “real” or “true”.


The English language has multiple conjunctions, two of which are “or” & “and”.

By intent, conjunctions joins phrases, words or sentences.

Conventional thinking processes, advocate what we can call “or” mentality - only one of the two views could be true or offer the best solution.


Integrative thinking on the other hand works on “and” mentality - both views can be true/ third alternative that has the best of both worlds can be true. It's the building block for cognitive agility, strategic thinking, agility.


In the book, “Opposable mind: Winning through integrative thinking, by Roger Martin, Integrative thinking is defined as:



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 thinking can be enhanced by the below:

  1. Maintaining distance between ourselves and our views: We have numerous ways to define our identity. Letting it rest on one view point is foolish if not crazy. So, if who we are is different from what we think, it’s quite possible that we have the ability to change our view point and make it better for ourselves and everyone around us.








2. Acknowledging values are relative: Each person has their own set of top X non-negotiable values. Values unlike principles are relative. Fighting over them leads us no where. Communicating our intent with our values is a great first step to reduce emotions in a conflict.






3. Creativity: We all know we have three primary colours - RGB. The rainbow of colours we see around us is possible only because the primary colours agreed to synergise in the first place! What we can accomplish by sharing ideas & creating better ones than the original is worth taking a shot.








4. Assertive Inquiry: Our first preference in a debate is “advocacy of our PoV”. Enhancing the work of organisational learning theorist Chris Argyris(HBS), Assertive enquiry aims to blend advocacy of our views with inquiry of other’s views. As an example, in P&G, the following stance is followed - “I have a view worth hearing, but I may be missing something.”





The way we can implement the above when there are disagreements is

a. Be open to better our ideas

b. Convey our intention

c. Summarise our PoV

d. Summarise other person’s PoV and ask whether we have understood it to their satisfaction

e. Explain where there is a gap in our understanding between the view points

d. Propose if a synergetic idea encompassing both PoV and ask for feedback.


What is one step you can do to thrive in conflicts?

#coaching #executivecoaching #leadershipcoaching #conflicts


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