Unsafe Thinking is a book for anyone who knows they tend to take the safe route with their decisions and ideas and wants to be a bit more innovative. People who say they are “not creative” might benefit by becoming more open-minded. If one’s ideas in a business meeting are quickly dismissed, perhaps some bolder thinking is needed. We have to change with the times, whether that is at home or at work or in our other activities. Consider how many of the “rules” we grew up with are outdated for today’s children.
Unsafe Thinking: How to Be Nimble and Bold When You Need It Most is an appropriate title. Sometimes we need steady and traditional thinking. Perhaps when facing a crisis or a familiar challenge the best response is one that has worked well in the past. But there are times when we need to be a bit more courageous, open or flexible with our thinking in order to meet a new circumstance or opportunity.
In Unsafe Thinking, author Jonah Sachs identifies attributes of unsafe thinking. To Sachs, unsafe does not mean dangerous or engaging in serious risk, but it does mean being willing to embrace new ways of looking at problems or opportunities.
There are six sections: Courage, motivation, learning, flexibility, when wrong is right, and leadership. Each with two or three chapters. Most are pretty logical according to their section title. Motivation includes an interesting chapter on embracing challenges and opportunities. The section on learning cautions readers not to feel like we have become experts on a subject lest we stop exploring new approaches or ideas. This can be especially appropriate in the case of a founder of an organization whose original ideas are no longer leading edge and need to be revised or even discarded.
The section on morality asks readers to consider stepping over the line on occasion, not in an immoral or illegal way, but to test the boundaries because perhaps they should be expanded. There is a positive chapter on recognizing the good ideas of foes or competitors, whether in the same enterprise or another one. It is easy to dispel someone else’s idea when we do not like them. That can be a mistake.
Leadership is the final section and may seem obvious. Whether in leading a company, a classroom, or a team of volunteers, good leadership inspires others to follow even when they are a bit unsure or doubtful. Sometimes our courage is transferred to others and they become willing partners, even leading others in much the same way. There are interesting stories of how incentives can be used to get movement. But we are shown examples where incentives can also backfire, or not be needed, if we present the right conditions.
People whose work or business needs a creative boost could see improvement using some of the book’s techniques. Often a business starts off strong and holds its own, but with time, the competition seems to catch up and pass it. Businesses, whether for-profit or non-profit, cannot afford to become complacent; new ideas need to keep coming to keep the business fresh and cutting edge. Even companies that produce fairly mundane products need to keep finding new ways to use their product or create a new one that complements the existing lineup.
This is an enjoyable book. It can refresh the way we look at things, whether we are at the beginning of a career or college or at-home raising children and dealing with myriad tradespeople and teachers. Retirees will also find it stimulating to think in new ways and discard some of the stale views we have held for far too long.
Bold thinking doesn’t mean that any idea that is “out of the box” is a good one. Just as it is important to recognize a good idea, it is equally important to recognize a bad one. And a bad one could be too new, too old, or just not right for the situation (though possibly fine under other conditions).
With “unsafe thinking” we seek new ways of looking at situations and asking “what if?” or “why not?” more often. We may stick with the status quo, but what can be wrong with expanding our horizons?
De Capo Press 2018
Paperback, 256 pages