2007/06/01 14:35 Mihnea Moldoveanu, "Designing the Thinker of the Future"

2007/06/01 14:35 Mihnea Moldoveanu, "Designing the Thinker of the Future", Rotman Lifelong Learning Conference, Toronto

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker's presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted on the Coevolving Innovations web site by David Ing.

[Roger Martin]

Mike Moldoveanu is director of the Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking

[Associate Professor and Director, Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking™, Rotman School; Co-Author, The Future of MBA – The MBA of the Future (working title for Oxford University Press, Fall 2007); Master Passions: Emotion, Narrative, and the Development of Culture (MIT Press, 2002)]

[Mihnea Moldoveanu]


New book:  MBAs of the future

Take three words (designing, thinker, future) and put them together to make you comfortable

Something about designing a thinker

Mind is an uncontrollable organ

Opportunity:  the new workforce, to create value, relies on a new skill set

  • These are epistemic skill sets:  the ability to guide your mind to do different things
  • Create a basic science of integrative thinking

Market opportunity:

  • Adapted from Johnson, Manyika and Yee, three McKinsey consultants
  • Transformational jobs:  matter into matter, or information into information
  • Transactional jobs, different transactions
  • Tacit:  structuration and management of complex interactions
  • Significant majority are in the tacit jobs, and require tacit skills

When don't have a science, often call it tacit

  • To put back on the path, make it implicit
  • Differentiate between algorithmic and non-algorithmic skills
  • e.g. making a computer program itself, outset of skill set


Expertise map of a large telecomm company

  • Person needs expertise in different languages to design a base station: hardware, software, ...
  • Underlying disciplines
  • Different languages
  • Different underlying sciences
  • Different modes of thinking, justifying
    • Engineer prefers deductive, marketer prefers inductive

General manager wants to integrate:  the tacit skills integrating across the domains

  • Mental model clash across a large family of models

Can have different mental models of fairness, e.g. end of year performance review, with a response coming back "it's not fair"

  • Fairness on equality on rights, needs, sharing of authority, effort, etc.
  • Words "it's not fair" obscure the underlying mental model fact

Conflict monger, see conflict everywhere

  • Thus, mental model clash when people are using the same words, but in different senses

Ability to resolve mental model clash varies with different thinkers

Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines: lowest cost and highest profit, yet highest customer satisfaction

  • Have to recognize the clash, and live it
  • Get it by thinking through the detailed implementation
  • Thus, short-haul airline that doesn't have frills, but looks after employees

Jack Welch, General Electric

  • Stretch goals versus productive budgeting and planning meetings (as an efficient coordinating device)
  • Resolution: Think outside the usual models
  • Delinking of discussions of hopes and dreams from budget conversations
  • Cake:  I cut you, you choose
  • Can expand to an envy-free decision protocol

Richard Currie, Loblaws

  • Low prices for customers, versus high margins for Loblaws
  • Creative resolution: President's Choice

Moses Znaimer:

  • Television stations as the space between programs
  • Can use this space to feel local, while doing global programming

Integrative thinking:

  • Think about learning to swim, and how to turn at the end of the pool
  • One may, watch lots of videos of Mark Spitz, but it's complicated
  • Go to a learning theorist:  break the complex sequences into simple sequences and then put them together into a complex sequence
  • Thus create some simpler models, that can put together

Four modules

  • Suspension of belief
  • Suspension of disbelief
  • Interactive reasoning
  • Behavioral responsiveness

Integrative thinking has to be guided by a stance, it can't be guided by a role

Stance has two parts:

  • 1. Cognitive pragmatism: says mental behaviour is the result of a choice
    • Brain constantly behaves consciously and unconsciously
    • Can do reconnaisance to figure out what is product and unproductive
    • Thinking, thinking about thinking, and then thinking about thinking about thinking
  • 2. Gloptimization: global optimization, as compare to local optimization
    • Active avoidance of local optima
    • Think of your business as lots of rocks, want to get to the Himalayas, but you might get trapped on Kilimanjaro
    • You'll have a sugar high from getting to Kilimajaro
    • Tries to inculcate mental habits associated with global landscapes

Cognitive pragmatists not only think about what I should do, but also what should I think, how I should think, and why

  • e.g. you've gained weight, saying because it's true, as opposed to the suit, etc.
  • Point: there's choice on what you say, and what you focus on
  • Cognitive pragmatists focus on the value of believing some things over others
  • Instead of just choosing between a trade off, they think about an expanded value set
  • When do you stop? (or else it becomes obsessive-compulsive)

Evidence that you think it's helpful to be a cognitive pragmatist:

  • Sterman:  those who do best are those who first think about to approach the problem, before attacking the problem

Judgement in the future, often is based on a few data points

  • Linear regression, simplicity, doesn't mean that we have multiple ways to look at the past
  • Could be straight line, curve, or exact fit
  • Choice isn't given by data, have to make an a priori choice
  • On what basis do I make the choice?


  • Trapped in local optimum, how to get to the global optimum?
  • Instead of making rest the default mental state, make it search
  • Intensify the search
  • Occasionally, through in curve balls

Suspension of disbelief:

  • Engineer's view:  probability optimality, deductive logical closure
  • Marketer's view:  Has a lot of information to deal with, looking for face validity and inductive logic
  • Mental model clash, resulting in contempt, i.e. you just don't understand
  • Understanding requires extended suspension of disbelief

What do sophomores do?

  • Sophomores are the subjects of psych experiments
  • Kruglanski and Webster
  • They seize on and idea, and then freeze it, ignoring alternatives
  • Then they justify it, and refute alternatives
  • After fortress is build, go back to step 1
  • This is pessimistic to make integrative thinkers
  • Have to suspend disbelief at least long enough to understand it

Reason for knowing this is to have people reflect

Suspension of belief:

  • Two metaphors:  (a) management is all aobut selling, vs. (b) management is all a negotiation
  • Want to wade in the complexity

Sophomores suspend belief by ...

  • Believing it before they understand it
  • Hold it in our minds, and then decided whether it is correct or not
  • Experiments of Dan Gilbert: Keep holding the belief, even if it's not discredited
  • But in Langer's work, can make the belief formation process more flexible

Interactive reasoning:

  • Conversation, on what I think and what you think
  • There's also what I think you think, and what you think I think
  • Should go to deeper levels, alternatively, we don't have grounds for our words to make sense to each other
  • Mindless attibution layer, but deeper, a "first understanding" layer
  • Can draw conclusions before, during and after meetings, and compare

Sophomore reasoning:

  • We'll have false attributions

Walk the talk: all of the preceding are in the mind, can you get your being to take this

  • Follow with behaviour?

Mental model responsiveness:

  • Model A with an outcome (failure)
  • Change the mental model, but then change the behaviour with the mental model
  • This is difficult, will is something that represents a muscle


  • If you proofread a text, then it makes it hard to stop watching a boring movie
  • If you first make a non-obvious choice, it makes it hard to persist in attempting to solve a difficult puzzle
  • If first suppress an undesirable though, it makes it harder to suppress signs of amusement

Need to think about how to train the will

  • e.g. if hungry, don't eat, listen to Mozart

These are four modules, out of a projected 7 or 8, to understand the nuts and bolts of integrative thinking

Research project will be called "winking at reality"


Effect of self-confidence on suspending belief or disbelief

  • Not precise enough
  • It talk about self-efficacy, ability for me to conduct a task, it's better
  • Self-confidence particularized to a skill set

Skill of integrating different information processing styles, e.g. Hogarth's work on moderating and modifying and integrating

  • Yes, but interested in specific linkages between processing styles, and what managers do
  • Connectionist styles and interactions, but end up with Rumelhard and Chomsky, and managers will say leave me alone
  • Trying to understand the phenomena
  • This recaps structural arguments, but in a much phenomenological context
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