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20 July 2015

RM:OM:Chapter6: The construction project: Imagining Reality

This post is chapter 6 of the book 'The Opposable Mind' written by Roger Martin. You can read the high level review of the book in  THIS POST. Please read it before you read this post.

Read Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 of the book. 

The stances of integrative thinkers have six common features. These concerns the world around them and their role in it..

One, they believe that whatever models existing at present do not represent reality. They are simply the best or only constructions yet made.
Two, they believe that conflicting models, styles and approaches to problem are to be leveraged, not feared.
Three, better models exist that are yet to be seen.
Four, not only that better models exist, by that they are capable of bringing that model from abstract  hypothesis to concrete reality.
Five, they are comfortable wading into the complexity to ferret out a new and better model, confident that they will emerge on the other side with a resolution they seek.
Six, they give themselves time to create a better model.

Integrative thinking is an inherently optimistic stance. They understand that the world imposes constraints on them, but they share a belief that with hard thinking and patience they can find a better outcome than the unsatisfying ones they are presented with. Integrative thinkers refuse to accept trade offs. They do not believe in 'either or'. They are more comfortable with 'and'.

The question is 'how do you cultivate a new stance?'. The answer lies in how you develop the six thinking patterns mentioned below.

One, existing models do not represent reality.

Our 'factory setting' causes us to confuse our perceptions, which are subjective constructions, with objective reality. So the first step in developing better thinking habit is to distinguish between them. The key points are two. One, anything that we consider real is a model of reality and two, that model is probably imperfect in some important aspects.

Two, opposing models are to be leveraged, not feared.

It is very important to understand that all models reflect reality from a particular angle. Hence it is possible to assemble a fuller, probably not complete, model of reality by incorporating a variety of other models. Salient data once overlooked, casual patterns once unnoticed, architectural possibilities once went unexploited, all begin to converge.
Opposing models are the richest source of new insight to a problem. The most creative, productive stance is the one that see opposing models as learning opportunities.

Three, better models exist that are not yet seen.

In this section the author bring in two conceptual ideas.These approaches help in evaluating theories of how the world works. The two approaches are 'Contended Model Defense' (CMD) and 'Optimistic Model Seeking' (OMS). In CMD we adopt a theory and then seek to support and defend it. As we accumulate data in support of the theory we have adopted, we become more certain of our theory and move toward achieving our goal certainty.

The problem with CMD is that the defender tend to ignore the non-confirming data. Also, when we go into the defense mode, we short-circuit any attempt to seek a more accurate model. Within the CMD framework, an alternative or clashing model is a problem to be eliminated. Alternative models pose a threat to the veracity of the existing model and must be disbelieved, distorted and disproved.

As against the CMD, the OMS model doesn't believe that there is a right answer, just the best answer available now. The presumption is that all models are fallible but doesn't mean that the current model should be rejected. For OMS, the resting state is not certainty. They are always testing their model against the best available data. Their goal is a refutation of their current beliefs, because refutation represents not failure but an advance. Stance is optimistic since the assumptions that future models will be better than the current model. Optimistic model seekers are discomfited by the presence of a single model.

One can become an OMS by close examination of their personal beliefs and determine how and why they maintain those beliefs. Typically we maintain our beliefs by engaging in CMD. Fore example we resort to authority to justify our beliefs. Logical circularity is another favorite strategy for CMD. An example of Logical circularity is 'I know I treated him fairly because I am a fair person'.

Four, I am capable of finding a better model.

This is the first of the three statements concerning self. To get into this thinking mode, one need to get regular experiences. It is not only that one get experiences, it is important that one thinks  reflects about their experiences. Through thinking one learns to analyze the salient and causal relationships underlying these experiences.

To learn from our experience, we must be explicit in advance about the thought process preceding the decision. If wee have thought through the decision beforehand, from analysis of consequences, one can learn from these experiences.

Five, I can wade through and get through the necessary complexity
From the outcomes, you can reflect on the actions that generated the outcomes. From the actions you have to go back and reflect on the thinking that led to these actions. Systematically reflecting on the way you think is a powerful way to change your thinking.

Six, I give myself time to create a better model.

An integrative thinker knows the value of patience. It is worth the mental effort to patiently wait for a creative solution to emerge.

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