How to master integrative thinking


AFMS Group’s Jamie Louw reveals the essential skills every CFO needs to navigate complex business decisions.

As CFOs, we are constantly facing unpredictable and challenging conditions in our work. In order to navigate the complex and dynamic world of business, it is essential for us to develop and practise leadership skills that allow us to make sense of the chaos around us. Reflecting on my own experiences, I have found that integrative thinking has been a valuable tool in helping me overcome these challenges.

Integrative thinking is not just a buzzword, but a powerful methodology that has evolved over time and can be applied in a variety of contexts, including leadership and business. At its core, integrative thinking involves breaking down a challenge or opportunity into its core elements and then reassembling them into a new option that doesn’t present a compromise. This allows us to find solutions that are more robust and effective than mere compromise solutions.

Salience is an important aspect of integrative thinking. By gaining a holistic understanding of the information or variables that are relevant for decision-making, we are able to develop a deeper sense of perception and use discriminatory skills to identify key aspects of the challenge being faced. Understanding causality and the impact of our decisions on stakeholders is also crucial. This allows us to identify critical stakeholder relationships and intersections and make robust and pointed choices that consider the ripple effects of our decisions.

Sequencing is another skill that is essential to integrative thinking. By selecting the right cutting-in point and revisiting earlier assessments, we are able to update our understanding of the problem and reorder our choices as we learn and lead. This process is implicitly creative and fosters artistry through the leader's work.

Operating within a challenging context can be difficult, but it is essential to remain mindful and hold the tensions implicit in decision-making. Mental theatre and negativity can impede the development of integrated solutions, so it is important to remain balanced and harness the various tensions in systems and from the external environment to allow for the emergence of truly integrated solutions.

At its core, resolution through pure integrated solutions is ethical and value-adding for all stakeholders when grounded in the right purpose and intentions. As business players needing to be responsible corporate citizens, it is incumbent on us to act responsibly and consider all stakeholders in our decision-making, ensuring we do not impose unwarranted costs and burdens on society and conducting ourselves ethically as businesses in society.

In conclusion, integrative thinking is a valuable skill set that can help CFOs navigate the complex and dynamic world of business. By using salience, understanding causality, sequencing, holding tensions, and focusing on resolution, we can develop and implement integrated solutions that benefit all stakeholders and promote ethical and responsible business practices.

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