Hallmarks of Integrated Thinking

Dimes, Ruth and de Villiers, Charl (2024). Hallmarks of Integrated Thinking. The British Accounting Review, 56(1), article no. 101281.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bar.2023.101281


Integrated Thinking, the management approach associated with Integrated Reporting, has been hailed as a way of improving organisational decision-making and internal communication, leading to sustainable value creation. Yet Integrated Thinking remains poorly defined and understood. By analysing and synthesising the findings from an emerging body of case study evidence, this paper brings new theoretical insights into how Integrated Thinking is conceptualised and practised and its unique relationship with Integrated Reporting. We reveal Integrated Thinking to bring considerable tension to organisations as managers attempt to adapt to conflicting stakeholder priorities. Organisations which manage this tension and experience some success with Integrated Thinking typically exhibit four ‘hallmarks’, namely: 1) a deliberate drive by the board and CEO to encourage Integrated Thinking, 2) an Integrated Strategy developed through extensive stakeholder engagement and understanding of value creation, 3) the creation, or enhancement, of an organisational culture of trust and collaboration, and 4) the development of Integrated Intelligence, comprising integrated Performance Management Systems (PMS) and the use of multi-functional teams for decision-making. We present a new conceptual framework of Integrated Thinking in practice, reflect on its relationship with developments in sustainable management practices more broadly and propose several avenues for future research.

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