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Unsafe Thinking

I’ve been dwelling a lot on the concept of ‘Unsafe Thinking’ a term coined by Jonah Sachs in his book by the same name.

In a world where business needs to cut through a ‘same, same’ approach; unsafe thinking might just be the way to keep your business growth healthy.

Unsafe thinking encourages us to break out of habitual patterns and ways of doing things when they are no longer producing positive growth. For example, when you use the same marketing strategies for long periods of time, you can get just the same or decreasing results. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘law of diminishing returns’.

Unsafe thinking might well change this.

Small Business already has the capacity and reputation of being nimble. When you add a touch of unsafe thinking, not only can it add to that capacity but it can also add an element of surprise or the unexpected for your customers. It is possible to jolt your way out of expectations and sameness and become ‘re-seen’ in the marketplace.

You can potentially re-engage an older clientele who become intrigued by the change in direction and also engage a whole new audience for your products or services. Who do we turn to when we are looking to create change? Usually, we look for an expert; however, this may not be the best opportunity for a solution.

According to Jonah ‘expertise’ can also be a trap because it assumes an ‘expert’ approach will always produce the best results and this is not always true. Surprise in the form of a new direction or approach can be what is required to re-engage a tired or disengaged audience.

Jonah offers a convincing example of this in a company called CSV, who in an incredible example of unsafe thinking, decided to remove cigarettes from their product lines.

With a recognised loss to the business of two billion dollars, CSV rebranded and built on their brand worth to a value of eleven billion dollars in the first year using the removal of cigarettes as a bold statement about their commitment to the health and well being of their customers. This created new partnership opportunities, new business services and divisions previously unexplored. Aggressive rebranding drove impressive results. CVS found that 40% more influencers saw it as a leader in helping to improve overall health in 2015 compared with 2014. The company was listed as one of the most innovative and one of the most admired in various business publications. In addition, more than 500,000 people visited CVS’s smoking cessation hub, and 260,000 smokers sought advice from its pharmacy on quitting. Counter-intuitive choices paid off in multiple ways for CSV.

No one could expect that taking those kinds of bold risks would be easy; even anxiety provoking.

What do we do when we know a choice we are making might truly upset the apple cart and place our Small Business at risk? A risk as unsafe as the one made by CSV would destroy most Small Businesses.

So, what do we do when anxiety kicks in?

What do we do when it actually scrambles our ability to make decisions, the kind of decisions needed to produce bold changes? There are ways to find a balance between anxiety, unsafe thinking and getting creative in our business to maximise growth.

I have written about these in many previous articles, and there are ways to reorient our beliefs around anxiety. Anxiety can be a tool for creativity. Creativity is about taking on a challenge for which there is no map. You have to find that map for yourself. It can be scary and definitely feel unsafe. We are often on the cusp of a decision that logically suggests the tried and true however taking a leap and going for a totally new approach may reap rewards previously unheard of.

How do we depart from what we already know, from our patterns and beliefs, from our ‘expert’ knowledge?

How do some do unsafe thinking so well?

  • One suggestion is to open our awareness to the simple things that might be a way to view the problem. Be a beginner, have no ego, wander about in your lack of certainty and see what shows up. Allow everything to be fresh and new and when you notice your desire to return to the old, be aware and keep going.
  • Another is to have a no holds barred approach to the breakdown and assessment of ideas. A safe environment where critical analysis is encouraged but outrageous suggestions are also highly praised and encouraged.
  • Finally, greet anxiety as a good sign that you are on the cusp of unsafe thinking where amazing opportunities can be created.

In the words of the wonderfully creative genius David Bowie (and quite possibly taken out of context but never the less applicable):

Never play to the Gallery… Always go a little further into the water than you feel you are capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you don’t feel your feet are quite touching the bottom you are just about in the right place to do something exciting”.

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