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Weekly 3: Many Faces of Leadership, Problems vs. Contexts & “Integrative Thinking”

Summary: Who says there’s only one way to lead? A quick method to better understand a problem's conte

Idea Journal Weekly 3

January 14 · Issue #17 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Who says there’s only one way to lead? A quick method to better understand a problem’s context. Going beyond “either-or” to create more options. (~6 min read)

#1. To be a more effective and versatile leader, use the “Four-Frame Model.”
Academics Lee Bolman and Terrence Deal base their book How Great Leaders Think on a simple premise: good leadership starts with good thinking, and leaders who can look at the same situation from multiple perspectives think better.
The problem is that many leaders – and the academic literature and training programs that support them – are biased towards just one mindset or set of tendencies.
For example, the leader who is very good at handling technical problems, but is “mystified by issues of human emotion and motivation.”
To help leaders, as well as those who work with them, take a more comprehensive view of the challenges and opportunities they face, Bolman and Deal have developed the below Four-Frame Model:
The model can serve as a starting point for understanding that a given situation can be viewed through different lenses.
They’ve also developed a brief questionnaire based on the model that you can take to determine what kind of leader you are.
#2. Use the “CATWOE” checklist to better understand the context of a problem.
Emeritus Professor Peter Checkland helped develop CATWOE while pursuing his research in systems engineering.
You can use the easy-to-remember checklist to take a system-level view of your problem by asking the following questions:
Customers: Who benefits from the solution?
Actors: Who are the stakeholders?
Transformation: What is the process for turning inputs into outputs?
World View: What is the big picture, and what are the wider impacts of the solution?
Owner: Who owns the process or situation, and what role will they play in implementing the solution?
Environment: What are the constraints that will impact the solution and its success? 
#3. Instead of settling for two sub-optimal options, try “integrative thinking” to come up with a third, more desirable one.
Professor and author Roger Martin argues in this Harvard Business Review video that either-or choices are problematic for two possible reasons:
  1. We choose one option, and lose all the benefits of the other.
  2. We compromise between the two options (e.g., “a little bit about love, and a little bit about money”), which is “never particularly satisfying.”
Instead of settling for either of those two paths, Martin recommends a process he calls integrative thinking to get more out of two options by creatively combining aspects of each one.
Here are the steps he suggests for putting integrative thinking to practice:
First, don’t accept that you have only two options to choose from. 
Second, for each of the options, list all of their benefits. The trick here is to focus on practical, real-world benefits versus more abstract concepts.
Third, with all the benefits for each option laid out, ask yourself: How might I use the benefits of one option to realize the benefits of the other option?
Martin points out that anyone can use integrative thinking across a range of settings, but many people are not aware that it’s an option.
From his perspective, those who do use it are more innovative, and help to “make the world a better place.”
Quote of the Week
“I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person. The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”
- Novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her TED Talk The Danger of a Single Story
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