The word integration, as well as its meaning, is very important. To realize this one needs only to see the breadth of its use and its application to people, institutions, practices, and the natural world alike. Integration is defined as the act or instance of combining into the whole. More simply, it’s bringing things together to the benefit of them all.

Integration played a hugely important role in the building and growth of this entire nation with the bringing together of racial, religious, and ethnic groups across our organizations, schools, and places of business with the goal of the mutual benefit of all: Social harmony, broader education, and a stronger, more productive workforce to strengthen business and the greater economy.

A similar phenomenon occurs in nature when animals develop a harmony with their environment. The same happens inside our own brains. Psychology describes our personalities as the coordination and harmony of our collective experiences and knowledge, stating that “integration is the organization of the constituent elements of the personality into a coordinated, harmonious whole.” Biologists also refer to integration when describing how our nervous system collects and combines incoming information. Integration also occurs on the DNA-level. The integration of viral DNA is defined as such:

“Once the viral RNA has been reverse-transcribed into a strand of DNA, the DNA can then be integrated (inserted) into the DNA of the lymphocyte. The virus has its own enzyme called “integrase” that facilitates incorporation of the viral DNA into the host cell’s DNA.”

Perhaps it is its proliferation in nature and natural processes, the how, that has led to integration being such a popular term to apply to the what, meaning what we do, the processes we use. In mathematics, specifically Calculus, integration, and its reverse process, differentiation, have wide applications, including finding areas under curves and volumes of solids and has a tremendous effect on one of the largest industries in the world, computers and software. In fact, the application of integration plays a big role in the broader electronics industry as well. An integrated circuit is an electronic circuit whose components are manufactured in one flat piece of semiconductor material, and system integration is a broadly used engineering practice that provides procedures for assembling large and complex systems from less-complicated systems and subsystems.

In business, the microeconomic terms for a company’s management strategy and style of ownership and control is referred to as either horizontal or vertical integration. Along those lines, check out this month’s Quality as we delve into integration in the quality control realm with our management article, “The Benefits of Integrated Performance Management” and our software article, “Uniting Top Floor and Shop Floor for Improved Performance: MES-ERP Integration.”

As always, enjoy and thanks for reading!

Darryl Seland, Editorial Director