I have come across this phrase for a while now. It is another way of saying “the power of AND”.

Integrative thinking is part and parcel of design thinking: “What if we combine this AND that?” Etc.

Integrative thinking requires individuals who are comfortable with gray areas and paradoxes. Many great designers, scientists and counsellors are adept at this – the ability to hold seemingly contradictory concepts in their heads at the same time. To just sit with these opposites and be ok with them, and not feel disturbed or unsettled. To suspend judgement, suppress the imposition of personal beliefs. To temporarily let go of the one personal worldview. To suppress the ego …

And then, when the time is just right, and with the grand flourish of the true magician, to seamlessly integrate all the polar opposites into a coherent new WOW whole.

It does not mean that creative people don’t have strong convictions, principles, values or beliefs. The ability to be ok with gray areas, to empathise with conflicting viewpoints, to understand diametric opposites, is a skill. Just like the ability to cook well. Just because a counsellor empathises with a convicted criminal does not mean she herself agrees with or are interested in being the same. Passing judgement is not the point of talking therapy.

Integrative thinking can be hard for certain personalities, such as those with a strong need to categorise the world as clearly black or white, right or wrong.