Back To All Stories
jonah sachs blog

Great Ideas: Unsafe Thinking by Jonah Sachs {interview}

7 interesting ways you can benefit from unsafe thinking

Are you stuck in a rut? Author Jonah Sachs was.

As his creative agency Free Range grew, Jonah says he felt pressure to repeat past successes.

“I just felt myself getting smaller and smaller, and our advertising work getting less and less creative,” he told us in this week’s interview.

So Jonah wrote Unsafe Thinking to keep himself from “falling into a hole of non-creativity.”

His quest brought him in contact with dozens of "unsafe thinkers" - those who benefited from "What if?" and "Why not?" thinking.

7 benefits from unsafe thinking


Safe thinking has become extremely dangerous in a world of constant change. Where you want to swim to safety in a recession period, that is the moment when unsafe thinking is the most needed.

Cutting your employees’ handbook in half can release an organisation. People will take risks when they feel safe among their group. In times of recession, times of pullback, we need to be able to reward and identify intelligent risk.

We get our biggest growth curves when we find ourselves in the unfamiliar and unknown. Studies show that if you spend 6 months abroad, your knowledge systems get scrambled. When you return you perform more creatively in your home country.
The more time we spend in fields that we’re really bad at, the faster we learn. Anxiety is often a sign that you’re on that creative edge, and learning to move yourself and your team toward anxiety (as opposed to seeing it as a warning sign) is a huge path towards growth.

Discomfort and disagreeableness are actually 2 signs that a team is functioning at a higher level. For instance, teachers name creativity an important trait in students. But their least favourite students are the ones who are creative. They tend to mess things up. They take you off track.

We experience “flow” when our skills are just below our level of challenge. When something is really, really hard, and we can just about do it, but we need to reach a little bit for it, that’s when we get our most motivation and most creativity.

The first step is really a journey of self-transformation. Try doing something that doesn’t suit you or get out of the field that you know.  Search outside of your usual search zone. It’s actually quite a bit of fun.

Jonah’s GREAT EIGHT, 8 getting to know yu questions we ask all our authors: 

Recommended book:  I’ve read a great book called The Patterning Instinct [by Jeremy Lent] about sort of the history of human civilisation, and where it might go in the next 50 years.

And how did you get your first ever job?  By hanging around the college radio station. I suggested a college radio children’s clown show. So I was a radio clown for a number of years.

If you were not doing the job that you’re doing now, what would you like to be doing?  I’m a storyteller… so I thought I might want to be a fantasy writer at times, but I’m getting that itch scratched a little bit because I’ve organised a Dungeons and Dragons game with my children and the neighbourhood kids. The world feels so uncontrollable at times. It’s nice to be totally in control at times of your own fantasy world.

How do you push yourself when the going gets tough? I try whenever possible to do things that I’m terrible at. I’ve been taking singing lessons for the last year and a half. I am not getting any better …. that humbling experience of going in and realising I can’t even get past square one.

What’s one of the best decisions you’ve ever made to improve your career?  Saying “These are my values, this is what I care about” has really drawn the kind of people that I’ve wanted to work with and has given me a sense of purpose in my life that’s helped me, for the last 22 years, feel like I’m on the right track.

What’s a fun fact about you that’s not widely known? Well, I have lived with the middle name of Willy my whole life, and not only do my friends make fun of me for it, but even my children make fun of me for it. My mother had a student, whose name was Willy, who stopped appearing in class one day, and she gave me that name.

What’s been your lowest moment and how did you recover from it? I started to feel responsible for a company that was falling apart. The set of tools that had worked most of my life had stopped working. It felt kind of like I was going to die. You kind of have to decide, “Am I going to just going to give up or am I going to try something different here?” And it was not an instant process for me. It really was a process of research and study, and these are very hard decisions, that actually led me to sell the company in the end, unexpectedly.

What’s one prediction you could make for 2025? My children, they’re 11 and 9, and they just marched in the climate strikes. In 2025 very young people are going to really see that they can change the world, and everybody, from politicians to businesses, will have to contend with this new blood with a lot of energy. I see some positive stuff coming on the horizon.

To buy Jonah Sachs's book Unsafe Thinking from Booktopia, click here. The Growth Faculty Members can watch, listen or read a full interview with our featured author Jonah Sachs by downloading the video, transcript or MP3 audio file, after logging on to the On Demand platform.   

If you are not currently a member of The Growth Faculty, click here to become a member to access our On Demand platform and discounts on LIVE events. First 14 days are free.