Opposable Minds

I just finished reading The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin. In it, he describes the mindset of leaders who are able to grow their business by holding two or more "models of the world" in mind at the same time and using them to integrate or innovate. In essence, mental flexibility rules!

An Opposable Mindset
Martin describes the six key elements of an integrative thinker's mindset:

  1. Current models of reality do not equal reality.
  2. Leverage the opposing model's key features and benefits.
  3. Believe that better models exist beyond the current ones.
  4. Believe that they can find the better model than the current ones.
  5. Like to wade into complexity.
  6. Give themselves time to create the new model.

Current Models Do Not Equal Reality
This is one of the essential foundations of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). Gregory Bateson said: "The map is not the territory."

George Lakoff talks about frames as a form of map. If you can "frame" your idea in a way that everyone agrees with, you've got them. In essence, if I can get you to buy my map of reality, then you're stuck with it. Even the "map" I'm describing in this ezine is a map or model.

Leverage Opposing Models
People naturally fear models that don't match theirs. Integrative thinkers love and leverage opposing models. They may ask: What do the models have in common? What are the unique benefits of each?

Believe Better Models Exist
Emerson said: "There's always a better way."

If your stance in the world assumes that there's always a better way, that better models exist, you'll find them. When Toyota looked at American Supermarkets in the 1950s they saw a better way to handle manufacturing inventory.

Believe They Can Find The Better Model

Alan Kay said: "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." Integrative thinkers with an opposable mindset believe they can invent it.

Like Complexity
Alan Perlis said: "Fools ignore complexity." Martin says integrative thinkers "are comfortable wading into complexity to ferret out a new and better model."

Give Themselves Time
Because integrative thinkers believe there are better models and that they can invent them, they trust that the insights necessary to create the new model will be revealed to them.

I've experienced this myself. I used to spend hours trying to teach people how to choose the right control chart from a basic set of seven. Then, one day, I realized that the QI Macros SPC Software for Excel had to analyze their data anyway before graphing it, so it could look at most data and tell what kind of chart it should choose. The Control Chart Wizard was born. Now I let the software do the decision making on what chart to choose.

Here's My Point
There are better models waiting for each and every one of us. Better management models. Better operational models. Better problem solving models. All we have to do is embrace them and continue to stalk the next level of excellence beyond what we already know.

Do you have an opposable mind? 

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