Unsafe Thinking by Jonah Sachs

(Da Capo Lifelong Books, April 2018)

How to take bold yet intelligent risks in a volatile world where everyone instinctively craves safety and stability

“Safe thinking” is everywhere, and there are concrete reasons why. The reliance on well-known patterns, carefully constructed plans, and the expertise we’ve developed in facing prior challenges has a magnetic pull on our psyches. Overcoming this bias is an urgent problem that nearly everyone in business must now confront. In Unsafe Thinking, Jonah Sachs probes deeply into the pitfalls of safe thinking through the experiences of successful trailblazers in a wide range of fields from business, health, education, and more. For example, take the story of Helena Foulkes, a vice-president at CVS who asked: Why would a company committed to health and wellness sell cigarettes? “Because it’s a $2 billion part of our business and removing cigarettes won’t make a dent in reducing smoking,” shareholders replied. Yet Foulkes convinced her colleague; cutting cigarettes has opened many other profitable avenues, and smoking has actually decreased in communities where many people used to buy their cigarettes at CVS.

Sachs also delves into the scientific literature of many leading researchers in the areas of cognition and creativity. What emerges is a fascinating set of stories of individuals who, despite the fears and resistance we all face, have deeply changed themselves, their companies, and the fields in which they work. Sachs calls these people “unsafe thinkers.” But they are not simply mavericks and radicals who break all the rules. It turns out that there are clear principles and habits of mind these people exhibit that account for their success. Sachs lays out ample evidence that anyone, armed with the will and basic understanding of how to do it, can become an unsafe thinker.

Jonah Sachs is the founder and a partner of Free Range Studios, a brand and innovation company that transforms companies through unsafe thinking. For his work he has been awarded “best of” honors three times at the South by Southwest interactive festival, earned a Webby award, and been featured at the Sundance Film Festival.