Unsafe thinking is the ability to meet challenges with a willingness to depart from standard operating procedures: To confront anxiety, tolerate criticism and even scorn, take intelligent risks, and refute conventional wisdom – especially one’s own views – in order to achieve breakthroughs. In today’s business environment, unsafe thinking is indispensable, but it is a poorly understood and little utilized skill.
It’s hard to imagine a time in human history when the lifeways of millions of people have changed so quickly and so regularly. To stay in sync with the rapidly evolving habits, values and desires of customers, every company and organization is challenged to be nimble, experimental and bold. Established patterns, industry-specific expertise, and trade secrets, the competitive advantages of the past, are quickly becoming burdens that lock enterprises into behaviors that worked yesterday but are now destined to lead to failure.
Looking at the chaos that’s unfolded over the last five years in retail fashion, Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia University’s Graduate School of business, observed: “Broken businesses rarely are ever able to be fixed. Big retail brands take time to establish and create themselves as equity of consequence. It takes decades to form in customers views as important, but once they get screwed up, they’re brittle, they break easily, and maybe they can’t be glued back together.” Yet the players in this space can’t help but try. Gap closes hundreds of stores and shakes up its creative team only to find itself stuck in a slightly less deep rut. Lane Bryant changes its leadership team only to continue to scraping along the bottom with no discernible change in the eyes of its customers. And the list goes on endlessly.
Why, when so much activity is happening behind the scenes of organizations desperately fighting for their lives, does it look from the outside like nothing innovative is happening? The train is rushing onward and companies appear to stand frozen in the tracks. The answer is that not only are the business models and brands of yesterday now obsolete, but the approach to change itself has become obsolete. Change could once be accomplished by removing a weak leader or cutting a broken service or product line. But today, the problem isn’t simply in the people or the product. The problem is in the mindsets that prompt us to take the seemingly safer, more proven route. The problem is relying more on the lessons of past experience than on a vision for the future. The problem, unfortunately, is coded into the foundation of human psychology.
Unsafe Thinking, looks at the latest scientific research and case studies to share how individuals and teams can break the patterns of the past to become far more creative and responsive to a rapidly changing world to ensure renewed success.
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