How to get a first-class mind

The most important ingredient to good business leadership is being able to think integratively, meaning one can hold two opposing ideas in one's mind at the same time.

by Harvard Business Review
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

By being able to handle complex and ambiguous matters, such individuals are able to synthesise the information and often produce a third idea. This goes to the heart of good decision-making and is exhibited by most of the top business leaders.

More than 60 years ago F. Scott Fitzgerald said the "ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function" was the sign of a truly intelligent individual. Whilst he believed only first-class minds could achieve this feat, it may be possible to teach yourself how to think more integratively.

One must shun the normal tendency to seek simplicity and regard complex, opposing ideas as desirable. A nineteenth-century American geologist, Thomas C Chamberlin, advocated just such a method for conducting trial and error scientific experiments. He argued that such an approach could develop the "habit of parallel or complex thought".

How successful leaders think
By Roger Martin
Harvard Business Review, June 2007

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