How successful leaders think

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Abstract

In search of lessons to apply in our own careers, we often try to emulate what effective leaders do. Roger Martin says this focus is misplaced, because moves that work in one context may make little sense in another. A more productive, though more difficult, approach is to look at how such leaders think. After extensive interviews with more than 50 of them, the author discovered that most are integrative thinkers--that is, they can hold in their heads two opposing ideas at once and then come up with a new idea that contains elements of each but is superior to both. Martin argues that this process of consideration and synthesis (rather than superior strategy or faultless execution) is the hallmark of exceptional businesses and the people who run them. To support his point, he examines how integrative thinkers approach the four stages of decision making to craft superior solutions. First, when determining which features of a problem are salient, they go beyond those that are obviously relevant. Second, they consider multidirectional and nonlinear relationships, not just linear ones. Third, they see the whole problem and how the parts fit together. Fourth, they creatively resolve the tensions between opposing ideas and generate new alternatives. According to the author, integrative thinking is an ability everyone can hone. He points to several examples of business leaders who have done so, such as Bob Young, cofounder and former CEO of Red Hat, the dominant distributor of Linux opensource software. Young recognized from the beginning that he didn't have to choose between the two prevailing software business models. Inspired by both, he forged an innovative third way, creating a service offering for corporate customers that placed Red Hat on a path to tremendous success. INSET: Conventional Versus Integrative Thinking. [ABSTRACT FROM PUBLISHER]

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  • Roger Martin

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