Integrative Thinking

Roger Martin

Roger Martin graduated with an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1981 and spent 13 years as a Director of Monitor Company, a global strategy consulting firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He served as the Dean at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto, from 1998 to 2013. He continues to receive worldwide recognition for his publications and initiatives and is currently Academic Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, where his efforts continue with ongoing research in Integrative Thinking, Business Design, country competitiveness and democratic capitalism (

Integrative Thinking theory was developed by Graham Douglas in 1986. Douglas describes it as “the process of integrating intuition, reason and imagination in a human mind with a view to developing a holistic continuum of strategy, tactics, action, review and evaluation for addressing a problem in any field.”

Roger Martin developed the theory into a practical methodology in 2000 that encourages the Integrative Thinker to utilize a creative approach for decision-making. It provides a framework that rises above the limitations of an “A or B” (or “either/or”) solution and resolves tensions by finding new and creative solutions that accommodate both A and B. He promotes being more aware of possibilities and refers to the variables in a problem as being “salient” components in the decision-making process. He also makes an excellent case for the use of abductive reasoning (sometimes referred to as “gut feeling”) as opposed to relying solely on inductive and deductive reasoning to arrive at decisions. Because of its flexibility and un-tethered freedom from limitation, abductive reasoning is used as a starting and finishing point in the analysis process. Perfect information is a luxury typically unavailable in business and big-picture salience and abductive reasoning play an important role in decision-making.

Roger Martin is convinced that Integrative Thinking can be taught and cultivated through exposure to case studies, classroom modeling and, most importantly, hands-on experience with the process. He distinguishes between integrative thinkers versus conventional thinkers and suggests that we can train ourselves to dig deeply and creatively for less obvious solutions. With increased exposure to the discovery process, he believes we develop a “habit of thought” that becomes our natural method for decision-making in all aspects of our lives.

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