What is the secret tool and skill High-Performers use to get excellent results?

We are exploring high-performance, and today's post is on thinking behavior for achieving great things faster.

Anyone who desires to achieve more with their lives will want to know how this works.

Integrative Complexity is a skill. It is the necessary foundation for better decision making and good judgment.

Roger Martin (Dean at the Rotman School of Management) refers to Integrative Complexity as "integrative thinking" (InT). In his book Opposable Mind, Roger explains Integrative Thinking as: "The ability to [sustain] the tension of opposing ideas ..." and end up with a superior solution.

I will use both terms-Interactive Thinking and Integrative Complexity-in this post.

What is Integrative Complexity / Integrative Thinking?

The term integrative Complexity (IC) or InT, in simple terms, is how you process and structure information, often independent of the context.

It consists of two essential components:


Differentiation refers to the perception of different dimensions and perspectives when considering an issue, problem, or situation.


Integration refers to the capacity to cognitively make conceptual connections among the different dimensions or perspectives.

InT is about the thinking process, not the actual content or subject. It is about the HOW of Thinking, not the WHAT.

What does this skill look like?

Based on research (by people like Roger Martin, Peter Suedfeld, Harold Schroder, and more), people with InT skills are excellent at recognizing and integrating multiple perspectives and possibilities.

They are amazingly good at being aware of their blind spots, biases, and articulating their assumptions. They can easily link two or more independent and often totally unrelated ideas and bring them together as a coherent, successful solution.

The context acts as a framework. The process then temporarily moves out of context but finally returns to the context to act as a wind tunnel for testing the solutions. All this is made easy with SenseCatcher.

People who have refined this skill believe there is more than one way to look at things. The best solution is context and time-specific. In other words, the correct answer today might not be the best solution next year. One size does not fit all.

People with low InT are not comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. They are focused on getting to a quick resolution and not interested in the validity of other points of view. They are not easily threatened by change and have a clear hierarchy of values.

In contrast, high InT or IC are flexible, broad thinkers (while simultaneously seeing the details), and are totally cool with ambiguity, multiple perspectives, possibilities, and interpretations. They thrive in such situations and the reality is that this is where they get their inspiration - it is their tool for success.

They see connections, dynamic tensions between perspectives and are excellent creators of stories.

Philip Tetlock, Stanley Coren, and others describe people that are good at integrative Complexity as:

  • Capable of dealing with high levels of information and do not get overwhelmed
  • Open-minded
  • Creative
  • Not particularly concerned with compliance
  • Not authoritarian or dogmatic
  • Independent thinkers
  • High emotional intelligence
  • Good socially
  • Good decision-makers
  • High initiative and self-objective
  • Excellent information processing skills
  • Good at managing their cognitive function (to avoid mental fatigue).
woman sitting on the chair

What makes this skill powerful

Integrative Thinking is the necessary foundation for good problem-solving and decision making.

In a world where change is constant, this skill is a must-have 'superpower.' Successful and influential individuals identified as having integrative complexity skills are people like (ignoring your personal biases): Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Jack Dorsey, Reed Hastings, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison - the list is long.

To see the unseen is a skill in great demand. The ability to see patterns and connections that most ignore or cannot see or create through stories.

Innovation, a byproduct of integrative thinking, is the most potent force for the future.

Solving problems is not about fixing or finding the perfect and only solution; it is about finding a pattern in ideas that best addresses the situation given the circumstance, while fully aware of competing and changing variables.

The foundations of the skill are:

  • Capable of dealing with high levels of information and not getting overwhelmed
  • Curiosity
  • Life long learning
  • Prototyping
  • Visual Thinking
  • Embracing ambiguity and paradox
  • Creativity - comfortable with science and art
  • Systems Thinking

The best advice to develop the skill of integrative thinking is to:

  • Habitually read outside of your knowledge domain
  • Refine your storytelling skills
  • Not be afraid to ask even the dumbest of questions
  • Rules are not restrictions; they are opportunities
  • Check your prejudices
  • Be curious
  • Be humble but smart
Storytelling Course

When SenseCatcher is used to facilitate Integrative Thinking, the process becomes that much more powerful.

Visual Thinking and story mapping enhance Integrative Thinking's power while reducing the IC skill's cognitive load. It mimics the distributed dynamic nature in which the brain works, making it easy for the brain to deal with complexity and ambiguity levels.  Exceptional results and solutions are achieved faster and with high levels of success.

The future needs more courageous high-performers. I hope you can join in the movement to make this world a better place for all with more effective thinking tools and skills. 


  • Martin, R. L. (2007). The opposable mind: How successful leaders win through integrative thinking. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.
  • Coren, S., & Suedfeld, P. (1995). Personality correlates of conceptual complexity. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 10, 229–242.
  • Tetlock, P. E., Peterson, R. S., & Berry, J. M. (1993). Flattering and unflattering personality portraits of integratively simple and complex managers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 500–511.
  • Békés, Vera & Suedfeld, Peter. (2019). Integrative Complexity. 10.1007/978-3-319-28099-8_1942-1.