Integrative Thinking: Synthesize Multiple Ideas Into One Complete Idea



“Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.” — Neil Gaiman

Are you one person at work and a very different person in life?

What if you could better balance and blend who you are with who you want to be, and with who you show up as?

That’s integrative thinking in action.

Integrative thinking is the mark of exceptional leaders.

You can be who you are, wherever ever you are, when you practice integrative thinking.

In The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership, Joelle K. Jay shares insights and lessons learned around integrative thinking.

Integrative Thinking

Integrative thinking is the ability to synthesize multiple ideas into one complete idea.

Via The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership:

“’All at Once’ is a state of mind that allows you to combine different ideas and think about them at the same time.  In an article called, ‘How Succe3ssful Leaders Think,’ Roger Martin, the dean of the Rotterman School of Management at the University of Toronto called this idea ‘integrative thinking’: a conscious way of synthesizing two or more ideas to come up with one new and superior idea.  When you use integrative thinking, you hold in your mind several complex and possibly competing concepts at the same time so they come together into one complete idea.”

The Mark of an Exceptional Leader

Integrative thinking is the mark of an exceptional leader.

Via The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership:

“Dr. Martin calls integrative thinking the mark of an exceptional leader.  After interviewing over 50 leaders up to eight hours each, he writes, ‘It is this discipline — not superior strategy or faultless execution — that is a defining characteristic of most exceptional businesses and people who run them.’  Integrative thinking is also a defining characteristic of personal leadership.”

Everything is Everything

When you have a fractal, the design of the whole shows up in every tiny piece.

Via The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership:

“Mathematicians have a symbol that illustrates integrative thinking beautifully.  It’s called a fractal.  A fractal is a design in which every tiny piece has the design of the whole — the same swirls or angles or zigzags repeated again and again at every level.  Zoom in on a tiny chunk of the design, and you see the exact same pattern as if you zoom out.  Everything is everything.”

You Are Who You Are Wherever You Are

The way you practice integrative thinking is to show up as who you are, wherever you are.

Via The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership:

“When you practice integrative thinking, you approach your life as if it were a fractal.  The you in your personal life is the you in your professional life.  The ideas that apply over here also work over there.  You are who you are wherever you are.  You are true to yourself.”

How You Feel Affects How You Act Affects How You Work

Compartmentalizing doesn’t work very well.  It robs us of who we are, and self-expression.  A disjointed approach creates disjointed results creates a disjointed life.

Via The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership:

“In our culture, we don’t do that very well.  We separate our work and our life into boxes.  We compartmentalize.  And while compartmentalizing may work pretty well in a storage room where you can have matching plastic bins with labels and lids, it’s no way to live a life.

You are not a storage shed, some kind of staging area where your work goals can go on one shelf and your personal goals can go on another.  Your head does not go in this bin and your heart in that bin over there.  You are whole.  How you feel affects how you act affects how you work; how you work affects your results; your results affect the way you live.  It’s all connected.  You are connected; you are one.”

Wholeness is at the Core of Our Humanity

When you practice integrative thinking, you can be everything all at once.

Via The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership:

“In a landmark study of spirituality in the workplace, researchers Mitroff and Denton found that wholeness is at the core of our humanity.  ‘People do not want to compartmentalize or fragment their lives,’ they write.  They also assert that the search for meaning, purpose, wholeness, and integration’ is part of the journey of life. 

You can be a groundbreaking business person, an encouraging leader, and a balanced person, partner, family member, friend, or community member all at the same time.  You can get your work done, be there for everyone else, and still make time for yourself.  You can accomplish your short-term tasks and move toward your long-term vision at the same time.  You can make a good living while you also do something meaningful with your life.  You can simultaneously serve the business, the organization, the client, your colleagues, your boss, your team, your family, your own needs, and your corner of the world.”

If you find yourself wearing a façade, or feeling conflicted because you show up as one person, but know that it’s not really you or who you want to be, try practicing a little more integrative thinking and show up in your authentic way.

Authenticity wins for the long haul.

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