The potential power and impact of a new way of thinking in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous global marketplace
Note: My review is of the second edition of a book first published in 2013.
We have only recently begun to understand and — yes — appreciate the importance of integrated thinking, largely because of new breakthrough research on what the brain is and how it works. Integrated thinking seems to work best when operating on two separate but interdependent levels: individual as when Thomas Jefferson struggled to accommodate his multiple perspectives and values (e.g. “inalienable” human rights and slavery) and collective as when (as Doris Kearns Goodwin suggests in Team of Rivals) members of Abraham Lincoln’s cabinet struggled to formulate policies that would preserve the Union.
In The Opposable Mind, Roger Martin explains how successful leaders “win through integrative thinking.” Lincoln, for example, had ”the predisposition and the capacity to hold two [or more] diametrically opposed ideas” in his head and then “without panicking or simply settling for one alternative or the other,” was able to “produce a synthesis that is superior to either opposing idea.” Throughout his presidency, Lincoln frequently demonstrated integrative thinking, a “discipline of consideration and synthesis [that] is the hallmark of exceptional businesses [as well as of democratic governments] and those who lead them.” Thomas C. Chamberlain has characterized as “multiple working hypotheses” when required to make especially complicated decisions. Successful leaders such as Lincoln did not merely tolerate contradictory points of view, they encouraged them. In the business world today, the greatest leaders not only encourage but indeed insist.
I mention all this by way of “setting the table” for a consideration of what Sue Pearson has to say about “a new way of thinking, called Integrated Thinking or the New IT. To think in a new way means we have to change the way we use our brains, so before we change anything, we first need to know how our brains work.” She carefully organizes and presents her material within three Sections. First, she examines the stages of human development “in order to understand our present way of thinking better, and to create the basic New IT framework. Section 2 explores the links between human and social/political development, with particular reference to Britain today. In Section 3, we expand the new IT framework to include global development, and in the final Section, we will integrate the Mind and spirit into this new model.”
These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Pearson’s coverage in Sections 1-3:
o Two Sides of the New Brain (Pages 9-12)
o Crossroads (14-15)
o The Emotional Wheel (17-22)
o Decision-Making (26-27)
o The Unconscious (29-30)
o Gatekeeper (35-36)
o Adolescence (42-49)
o Section 1 Review (52-53
o Four Fs: Fight, Flee, Feed, and [Reproduce] (59-63)
o Rebalancing (73-77)
o In Opposition (83-90)
o Better Decision-Making (93-94)
o The Bottom Line (102-105)
o Young People (109-114)
o Section 2 Review (118)
o History of Organizational Crises (121-130)
o Global Stage (133-136)
o Bridging the Gap (141)
o I-Brain (143-148)
o Game Change (153-154
o Walls Coming Down (156-157)
o Section Three Review(163-164)
Plus: Section 4 Review (212)
Pearson should be commended for her skillful use of various-reader-friendly devices such as a “Chapter Review” and also (as indicated) a review for each Section. She and her editors make excellent use of formatting (e.g. use of bold type face and capitalization) to emphasize key terms. She has a crisp and lucid writing style that energizes her eloquent narrative. I especially appreciate her presentation of neuroscientific information in layman’s terms, at least to the extent that she can without compromising the integrity of the given material.
For whom did Sue Pearson write this book? The answer to that is suggested in her concluding remarks when she notes that, over a period of more than thirty years, she was given knowledge of subjects outside her own experience and even of subjects she had no name for. “Before the age of books and computers, the Mind-brain link was how people discovered and explored their inner and outer worlds. This book is the result of my own inner journey of discovery, rewritten and revised over many years, using other people’s later books as supporting evidence, as I tried to incorporate the changes I understood intellectually into the reality of my own life and to make the knowledge accessible to all.”
If you are curious to know more about what your brain is and how it works. More specifically, if you are curious to understand how integrating different ways of thinking can increase your brain power, help you make better decisions, and help reduce tension and conflict in your life, this book was written for you. And there is a substantial value-added benefit that must also be mentioned: The material in this book can also help you to help others to achieve those same objectives and thereby accelerate their own personal growth and professional development.