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How Successful Leaders Think

In: Business and Management

Submitted By martaserra
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Leaders have the predisposition and the capacity to hold in their heads 2 opposing ideas at once. They’re able to creatively resolve the tension between those 2 ideas by generating a new one that contains elements of the others but its superior to both. This process of consideration and synthesis can be termed integrative thinking. It is this discipline that is a defining characteristic of most exceptional businesses and the people who run them.
Not every good leader exhibits this capability, nor is it the sole source of success for those who do. But integrative thinking tremendously improves people’s odds (possibilitats). Many great integrative thinkers aren’t event aware of their particular capability and thus don’t consciously exercise it.
Opposable Thumb, opposable mind
Red Hat faced what seemed like 2 alternative paths to growth. AS Red Hat looked to grow beyond its $1 million in annual sales, it could have chosen one of the 2 basic business models in the software industry. 1. classic proprietary-software model sold customers operating software but not the source code. These companies had wide profit margins because their customers, lacking access to the source code, were essentially locked into purchasing regular upgrades. 2. Free-software model: suppliers sold CD-ROMs with both the software and the source code.--> Prices were modest; and suppliers made money each time they assembled a new version from the many free updates by independent developers; but profit margins were narrow and revenue was uncertain.
Bob Young didn’t like either of these models. (1st model: si compres el propi software I alguna cosa va malament, no pots fer res per arreglar-ho I 2nd: it might have offered reasonable returns in the short term but wasn’t likely to deliver sustained profitable growth).
His response to Hat’s dilemma was to combine the free-software model’s low product price with the proprietary model’s profitable service component, in the process creating something new: a corporate market for the Linux operating system.
Now, Red Hat’s service offering was quite different: if you ran into a bug that caused your systems to crash you’d call the manufacturer and then he’d send an engineer to fix his software.
Young also made a crucial change to what had been the somewhat misleadingly dubbed free-software model: he actually gave the software away, repackaging it as a free download on the Internet rather than as an inexpensive but uncomfortable CD-ROM. This allowed Red Hat to break away from the multitude of small Linux packagers by generating faith among cautious corporate customers in what would become Red Hat’s central offering- service, not software.
Results Red Hat went public. Young became a billionaire. By 2000, Linux had captured 25% of the server operating system market and Red Hat held more than 50% of the global market for Linux systems.
What enabled Young to resolve the apparent choice between 2 unattractive models= His use of an innate but underdeveloped human characteristic: The opposable mind.
Human beings are distinguished from nearly every other creature by a physical feature: the opposable thumb. Thanks to the tension that we can create by opposing the thumb and fingers, we can do marvellous things. It would gave gone to waste this advantage if out species had not exercised it in ever more sophisticated ways. Without exploring the possibilities of opposition, we wouldn’t have developed either its physical properties or the cognition that accompanies and animates it. Analogously, we were born with opposable minds, which allow us to hold 2 conflicting ideas in constructive, almost dialectic tension. We can use that tension to think our way toward new, superior ideas.
Why is this potentially powerful but generally latent tool used so infrequently and to less than full advantage? Because putting it to work make us anxious. Most of us avoid complexity and ambiguity and seek out the comfort of simplicity and clarity: we simplify where we can. We often don’t know what to do with fundamentally opposing and seemingly incommensurable models. Our first impulse is usually to determine which of the 2 models is right and, by the process of elimination, which is wrong. We try to prove that our chosen model is better than the other one. But, in rejecting one model out of hand, we miss out on all the value that we could have realized by considering the opposing 2 at the same time and finding the tension clues to a superior model. By forcing a choice between the 2, we disengage the opposable mind before it can seek a creative resolution.
To take advantage of our opposable minds, we must resist our natural leaning toward simplicity and certainty. Basically, Young refused to settle for an “either-or” choice. He saw the unpleasant trade-offs he’d have to make if he chose between the 2 as a signal to rethink the problem from the ground up. And he didn’t rest until he found a new model that grew out of the tension between them.
4 stages of Decision Making: process of integrative thinking
How do integrative thinkers consider their options in a way that leads to new possibilities and not merely back to the same inadequate alternatives?
The steps themselves aren’t particular to integrative thinking: Everyone goes through them while thinking through a decision. What’s distinctive about integrative thinkers is how they approach the steps. 1. Determining salience: Figuring out which factors to take into account.

Conventional approach: discard as many as possible (or not even consider some of them in the first place). In order to reduce our exposure to uncomfortable complexity, we filter out salient features when considering an issue. We also do this because of how most organizations are structured. Each functional specialty has its own narrow view of what merits consideration (ex. Finance departments haven’t traditionally regarded emotional factors as salient to match the department’s doctrine).

Decisions go badly we recognize after the fact that we’ve failed to consider factors that are significant to those outside immediate reach of our jobs specialties.

Integrative thinker: actively seeks less obvious but potentially relevant factors. More salient features make for a messier problem, but integrative thinkers don’t mind the mess. They embrace it, because it assures them that they haven’t dismissed anything that may illuminate the problem as a whole. They welcome complexity, because that’s where the best answers come from. They are confident that they’ll find their way through it and emerge on the other side with a clear resolution.

2. Analyzing causality: you analyse how the numerous salient factors relate to one another.

Conventional thinkers: the simplest type of all is a straight-line causal relationship. Ex. Your boss tells you to stick to your job, and a potentially complex relationship becomes a linear one in which more of A produces more of B.

Bad decisions sometimes it is because we got the causal links between salient features wrong. (we may have been right about the direction of a relationship but wrong about the magnitude/ may have gotten the direction of a relationship wrong)

Integrative thinker: isn’t afraid to question the validity of apparently obvious links or to consider multidirectional and nonlinear relationships.

3. Envisioning the decision architecture: what decision to choose?

The order in which you make these decisions will affect the outcome. Ex. You may not be able to see your preferred movie if you’ve already decided to be back in time because tomorrow you must get up early.

Conventional thinkers: The impulse is not only to establish a strict sequence in which issues will be considered but also to dole out pieces of a decision so that various parties (often, different corporate functions) can work on them separately. What usually happens is that everyone loses sight of the overriding issue, and a mediocre outcome results.

Integrative thinkers: don’t break down a problem into independent pieces and work on them separately or in a certain order. They see the entire architecture of the problem – how the various parts of it fit together, how one decision will affect another. They hold all of those pieces suspended in their minds at once. They don’t parcel out the elements for others to work on or let one element temporarily drop out of sight. (an architect doesn’t ask his subordinates to design a perfect bathroom and a perfect living room and then hope that the pieces of the house will fit nicely together. A business executive doesn’t design a product before considering the costs of manufacturing it.)

4. Achieving resolution: outcome

Conventional thinkers: we accept an unpleasant trade-off within relatively little complaint, since it appears to be the best alternative. That’s because by the time we’ve reached this stage, our desire for simplicity has led us to ignore opportunities in the previous 3 steps to discover interesting and novel ways around the trade-off.

Integrative thinker: a leader who embraces integration rather than segmented thinking can creatively resolve the tensions that launched the decision-making process. If the integrative thinker is dissatisfied with the options he’s come up with, he may go back and start over. When a satisfactory outcome does emerge, though, it is inevitably due to the leader’s refusal to accept trade-offs and conventional options. (outcome in Red Hat’s case completely unconventional and successful)

Conventional thinkers seek simplicity
Integrative thinkers welcome complexity; even i fit means repeating one or more of the steps
Born and Bred
The consequences of integrative thinking and conventional thinking couldn’t be more distinct. Conventional Thinking | Integrative thinking | glosses over (passa x alt) potential solutions | generates options and new solutions | fosters the illusion that creative solutions don’t actually exist. | sense of limitless possibility. | they wear away with every apparent reinforcement of the lesson that life is about accepting unattractive trade-offs. | aspirations rise over time. | prefers to accept the world just as it is, | welcomes the challenge of shaping the world for the better. |

F.Scott only people with first-rate intelligence can continue to function while holding 2 opposing ideas in their heads.
Harvard Business Review: I refuse to believe that the ability to use our opposable minds is a gift reserved for a small minority of people.
Chamberlin the idea of multiple working hypotheses develops a habit of thought analogous to the method itself. Instead of a simple succession of thoughts in linear order, the mind appears to become possessed of the power of simultaneous vision from different standpoints.
Similarly, HBR believes that integrative thinking is a habit of thought that all of us can consciously develop to arrive at solutions that would otherwise not be evident. First, there needs to be greater awareness of integrative thinking as a concept; and then we can teach it in business schools. At some point, integrative thinking will no longer be just a tacit skill in the heads of a selected few.

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