Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Integrating Opposites to Succeed

I am reading The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin.  It's his extended definition of integrative thinking. Here's his working definition:

The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and, instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each. (p. 15)

Martin quotes F. Scott Fitzgerald on the test of first-class intelligence: he does not mention that Fitzgerald was paraphrasing John Keats. In a letter, Keats said, "It at once struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement . . . . I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact and reason."

The phrase itself, "negative capability," is an example of what it means.  It is a pulling back out of self and out of the limited frame self constructs.  It is a capability, an ability to engage, to have an impact.  It is two ideas for the price of one: and it is just one idea.

Martin is asking the question: when does tension present an opportunity to move to a larger frame and change the game so that we can win more often?

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