Roger Martin: Success Through the Opposable Mind

Steffie Verstappen
August 24th, 2010
Article by: Steffie Verstappen
Roger Martin: Success Through the Opposable Mind

BOOKS | The Opposable Mind: How successful leaders win through integrative thinking, by Roger Martin (Harvard: 2007).


Roger Martin is one of our great sources of inspiration at THNK. In this book, the Integrative Thinking guru makes a compelling argument for a paradoxical approach to problem solving that is largely based on the power of creativity and design thinking. He shares how successful leaders "win" by using the type of integrative thinking that we greatly encourage at THNK.
"Integrative Thinking is the ability to constructively face the tension of opposing models and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generating a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new model".


Martin illustrates how this works out in practice by drawing on more than fifty management success stories that show how the "opposable mind"—the human brain's ability to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension—is an intellectually advantageous evolutionary leap through which decision-makers can synthesize new and superior ideas.


As it is difficult, if not impossible, to emulate successful leaders' actions in challenging situations—due to the context-specificity of each situation—the focus is on what leaders think, rather than what they do. Among anecdotes and examples steering readers to change their thinking about thinking, Martin gives readers specific strategies for understanding their own "personal knowledge system", as well as for taking advantage of the "richest source of new insight into a problem," the "opposing model."


"In the world of business nothing succeeds like success. As Integrative Thinking succeeds, its adoption will spread" (Roger Martin).