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🦉 10x curiosity - Integrative Thinking - Problem solving process


🦉 10x curiosity

April 7 · Issue #203 · View online

🦉 A weekly sample of links that made me think 🤔

Also published in 10x Curiosity
Often we find ourselves faced with seemingly intractable problems. Issues with many moving parts and opposing points of view. Situations where you are faced with an either/or choice. These can be difficult to navigate, resulting in compromise solutions which aim to keep everyone happy but frequently leave no one satisfied. When faced with an either or choice, it is a good indication that perhaps the problem has been framed incorrectly and needs an alternate approach. Don’t accept tradeoff’s or the obvious compromises— do something different. You can always come up with a better answer.
Roger Miller found these compromise solutions could be challenged by taking advantage “opposable thinking”:
We were born with opposable minds, which allow us to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive, almost dialectic tension. We can use that tension to think our way toward new, superior ideas. (HBR — How successful leaders think)
He developed this concept into a problem solving methodology, called “Integrative thinking”.
Integrative Thinking is…
“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.”
The method is explored in depth in the book “Creating Great Choices” co-authored with Jennifer Riel.
There are four steps to applying this method:
  1. Articulating two extreme and opposing models to the problem
  2. Examine the models
  3. Create new possibilities
  4. Prototype the new solutions
Rogers highlights in his “Talks at Google” that the method is not necessary to apply in all situations, it is a useful tool when you have a real conflicting set of positions that seemingly just cannot be reconciled.
The authors outline the first step is to zero in on a problem worth solving and then attempt to identify potential models that address the problem. Turn this into a two-sided choice and push the models to as extreme a position as you can come up with. From the book “Creating Great Choices
Define the problem.
  • Articulate a problem worth solving.
  • Turn it into a “How might we?” question.
2. Identify two extreme and opposing answers to the problem.
  • Turn the problem into a two-sided choice.
  • Push the models to an extreme so that each represents a core idea.
3. Sketch the two opposing ideas.
  • Get clear about what each model is and is not.
4. Lay out the benefits of each model and the way it works.
  • Pick the most important stakeholders who’s point of view you need to consider in working on developing the new solution.
  • Create a pro/pro chart that captures your understanding of how each model works for the players
Say you are deciding with your family on where you might like to go on holiday. The question you might ask “How might we go on a family holiday that everyone really enjoys?”. Opposing models could be a stay at home vacation or a round the world cruise! (lets consider this pre COVID!)
Key stakeholders for this might be you and your wife, the kids and the family dogs (who you empathetically voice opinions on their behalf…!) The pro/pro chart, highlights positive items only. For example:

Next, you want to look at the models side by side and examine them from a number of angles to try to establish advantages and opportunities you might be able to leverage.
Writes Martin in a post on the Rotman Institute site— Applying Integrative Thinking
  1. How are they similar? Consider how the benefit is produced differently and how it might be produced in a new model. Then consider the tension between the models.
  2. What assumptions underlie each model? What are the crucial causal relationships?
  3. What problem are you trying to solve? Has it shifted during the analysis? Which elements of each model do you want to keep in the new model?
Explore the possibilities
  1. Under what conditions could one model actually create one core benefit of the other?
  2. How could a new model be created using a small building block from each model?
  3. How might the problem be looked at in a new way, so that each model could be applied to a different part of the problem?
Emerges from the weeds of Step 2, they now move to building prototype integrative solutions that resolve the tension between the two models — and create a better answer than would have been possible before. This step is all about exploring what better answers might look like.
This four step process is analogous to the Double diamond discovery process in Lean UX where you go through a series of steps of divergent and convergent thinking to ensure you are not boxing yourself too quickly into a sub optimal solution.
This last step asks, “what would have to be true” for our solution to work and be implemented
From the book “Creating Great Choices
  • List the critical conditions that must hold for this possibility to be a winning solution
  • For each critical condition, design a quick test you could run today with no additional resources
  • design a a small scale test that you run in the next few weeks with relatively small investments of time and money
  • List tests in priority order. Identify why that order
  • define your timeline
Finishing with Roger Martin
Integrative thinkers don’t mind a messy problem. In fact, they welcome complexity, because that’s where the best answers come from.
The consequences of integrative thinking and conventional thinking couldn’t be more distinct. Integrative thinking generates options and new solutions. It creates a sense of limitless possibility. Conventional thinking glosses over potential solutions and fosters the illusion that creative solutions don’t actually exist. With integrative thinking, aspirations rise over time. With conventional thinking, they wear away with every apparent reinforcement of the lesson that life is about accepting unattractive trade-offs. Fundamentally, the conventional thinker prefers to accept the world just as it is, whereas the integrative thinker welcomes the challenge of shaping the world for the better. (HBR — How successful leaders think)
Creating Great Choices | Roger L. Martin | Talks at Google
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