Book Review - The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking by Roger Martin
All too often, we're faced with choices where we have to settle for the best possible alternative given the situation. But what if you could synthesize new solutions from the conflicting options? That's the premise of the book The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking by Roger Martin. He looks at successful business leaders who have the ability to hold two conflicting, or opposing, ideas at once and then formulate a new solution that blends the best of both worlds.
Choices, Conflict, and the Creative Spark; No Stomach for Second-Best; Reality, Resistance, and Resolution; Dancing Through Complexity; Mapping the Mind; The Construction Project; A Leap of the Mind; A Wealth of Experience; Notes; Index; About The Author
Martin looks at the business world, specifically at leaders who were faced with difficult decisions with conceivably no good options. Using the concept of an opposable mind, he shows how the eventual outcome was a blend of available options, which often opened up a new reality that wasn't there on first glance. One example is Lee-Chin and his investment firm AIC Limited. He almost went broke in 1999 when his model for investment was under attack from the press and financial "experts". The typical outcome of this situation would be to fold the fund as redemptions were outpacing investments. But rather than follow the conventional wisdom for retrenching, he decided to take the exact opposite approach. He focused his investment on a single financial stock who had solid fundamentals. This decision, the "wrong" one according to the experts, ended up making AIC the largest privately held mutual fund company in Canada. The same type of situation faced Isadore Sharp and his Four Seasons hotels. Conventional wisdom said you had to be low-end or high-end, but you couldn't try to accommodate both. But through offering an entirely different level of service, he was able to establish his hotels as medium sized building with luxury offerings, and people were willing to pay the extra price for that level of service.
This is a very readable book that dives into the mindset of an opposable mind and steps that allow anyone to become an opposable thinker. By understanding the thought processes involved, you can go from an attitude of "either/or" to an attitude of "both". What I took away is the importance of not seeing the solution in the way things are, but looking for the solution in the way things could be. If you can imagine a new reality instead of conforming to the existing one, you can often find answers that weren't there before...