Studies Show That People Who Have High “Integrative Complexity” Are More Likely To Be Successful
A self-made billionaire studied Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk. An eminent researcher interviewed Nobel Laureates. They each came to the same conclusion.
My 6’5” dad was black and grew up in one of the most dangerous cities in America. He sported a huge afro into the early ’90s, when he died at the age of 35 from lung cancer, one year younger than I am now.
My mother, a Jewish refugee from Poland, arrived in Brooklyn when she was 17 with no money and no English. She was essentially a single mother for most of my childhood.
That makes me a half-black, half-white, 6’5” man born into a half-Christian, half-Jewish family, and raised by a refugee.
So I watch the daily culture wars unfold with mixed feelings. Recently, I listened to a podcast about race in which my people were described as “the victims.” Then I listened to another podcast, and this one cast me on the side of “the oppressor.” The result is that I tend to feel like a chameleon and see both sides of many of the issues currently being debated. I used to feel like I should pretend to strongly take one side or the other. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to embrace this ability to appreciate contrasting viewpoints without labeling one right and the other wrong.
And then I found four studies, independently conducted by four of the greatest thinkers of our time, that basically came to the same surprising conclusion: Many of the world’s top entrepreneurs — like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Elon Musk — along with Nobel Laureates have a common, rare skill called “integrative complexity.” Integrative complexity is the ability to develop and hold opposing traits, values, and ideas and then integrate them into larger ones.
These findings go against conventional wisdom in the business world, which is that we should double down on our strengths and mitigate everything else. They are also opposed to conventional tribal wisdom that says we should pick one side of every polarity and vehemently fight for it.
Here are the four breakthrough studies on why integrative complexity is a key to success, personal growth, and cultural polarization.