Integrative thinking

From CEOpedia | Management online
Integrative thinking
See also

Integrative thinking is the ability to comprehend the relationships among events or objects whose association is not obvious to the unskilled observer. It is a critical skill in battle command because of the large number of interacting factors on the battlefield and frequent necessity for rapid decision making. Synthesis is a related term that can be used interchangeably with integration. Integration involves the generation of plausible and rational explanations or solutions in complex situations based upon knowledge gained through experience and study.

The integrative thinking concept can be illustrated by giving partial information and discussing what the known information means[1].

Four steps of integrative thinking

Integrative thinking is a process of four steps[2][3]:

  1. As it begins, the integrative thinker takes into consideration any and all possible factors, involved in the problem or conflict. Possibilities aren't limited to only two or three variables. Even if some of them are direct opposites and have the potential to cause stress and dissension, the integrative thinker is able to manage extreme situations simultaneously.
  2. Second, he begins to sort through them and find multidirectional and nonlinear relationships among the factors. The integrative thinker will look at the entire scenario and not limit options to only one choice.
  3. The third step involves making a decision or proposing a viable solution for the problem. The integrative thinker alone considers the entire problem with all its factors and how possible solutions will affect each other. This information remains in the problem solver's mind only and is not dealt out to others for their interjections.
  4. The final step of the process is achieving the resolution. At this point, the problem area or tension is resolved and creative outcomes emerge.

Organizing the curriculum around integrative thinking skills

Beyond finding ways to integrate functional knowledge, Toronto's Rotman School of Management takes the view that integrative thinking in itself is a fundamental management function requiring specialized skills. In other words, it is a meta-skill, a capability needed to successfully mesh two or more skills developed by specialized training, such as training in finance or strategy. Integrative thinking defines as the ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new model that contains elements of the individual models, but is superior to each[4].


  1. J.J. Fallesen, R. Michel 2000, p.73
  2. S. L. Sharma 2010, p.212
  3. B.S. Sterling 2003, p.15
  4. S. Datar, D.A. Garvin, P.G. Cullen 2010, p.131


Author: Kinga Krzyściak