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An integrative methodology for creatively exploring decision choices

Jennifer Riel (University of Toronto Joseph L Rotman School of Management)
Roger Martin (University of Toronto)

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 18 September 2017




The authors translate their the concept of integrative thinking into a repeatable methodology, supported by a set of tools for thinking through difficult or “wicked“ problems, a process that offers a better chance of rejecting false choices and of finding a way through to an innovative alternative.


The authors divide their process into four phases. A case example illustrates each phase.


The four phases that make up the integrative thinking 10;process: articulating opposing ways to solve a vexing problem; analyzing those opposing models to truly understand them; attempting to resolve the antithetical approaches of the opposing models by creating new models that contain elements of the original alternatives but are superior to either one and testing the potential new solutions.

Research limitations/implications

Additional examples and detailed guidance is provided in the authors new book “Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking,” (Harvard Business School Press, 2017).

Practical implications

Several corporate examples of “wicked” problems to which integrative thinking might be applied are: After a merger, the combined sales organization is riven by dissension between proponents of two opposite approaches – one using direct sales and the other channel partners. The CEO of a retail bank struggling to manage the conflicting goals of increasing efficiency and improving customer service.


Applied thoughtfully, this new and tested methodology gives leaders at all levels a fighting chance at solving challenging problems and creating breakthrough choices.



This article is based on the authors’ new book, Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking (Harvard Business School Press, 2017).


Riel, J. and Martin, R. (2017), "An integrative methodology for creatively exploring decision choices", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 45 No. 5, pp. 3-9.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin.

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