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Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries [Kindle Edition]

Peter Sims
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.38
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

What do Apple CEO Steve Jobs, comedian Chris Rock, prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, and the story developers at Pixar films all have in common? Bestselling author Peter Sims found that rather than start with a big idea or plan a whole project in advance, they make a methodical series of little bets, learning critical information from lots of little failures and from small but significant wins.

Reporting on a fascinating range of research, from the psychology of creative blocks to the influential field of design thinking, Sims offers engaging and illuminating accounts of breakthrough innovators at work, and a whole new way of thinking about how to navigate uncertain situations and unleash our untapped creative powers.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Author Peter Sims

Q: What is a "little bet"?

A: A little bet is a low-risk action taken to discover, develop, and test an idea. So, for instance, Chris Rock develops new comedy routines by making little bets with small audiences, while Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos makes small bets to identify opportunities in new markets. Little bets are at the center of an approach to get to the right idea described in the book that any of us can learn without getting stymied by perfectionism, risk-aversion, or excessive planning.


Q: How is this approach different from and better than the typical way most people do something new?

A: We’re taught from an early age to use certain procedures and rules to analyze and solve problems, such as for math or chemistry. We’re asked, what’s the correct answer, right? There’s an emphasis on minimizing errors. These types of skills serve us extremely well, especially when we have enough information to put into a formula or plan. But what happens when we don’t even know what problems we’re trying to solve? It happens a lot. That’s the situation the U.S. Army has had to face when confronting Middle Eastern insurgents. In situations like these, engaging in discovery and making little bets is a way to complement more linear, procedural thinking.

Q: What research did you do for this book and what did you set out to discover?

A: I wanted to find out what went on behind the scenes of some of the great achievements and innovations we witness. Most of them weren’t the epiphanies of geniuses, but instead the result of masters of a specific type of experimentation. To find out the common elements of their experimental approach, I reviewed empirical and neuroscience research about creativity and innovation, and interviewed or observed dozens of people about their approach, including Army counterinsurgency strategists, architect Frank Gehry, agile software development teams, stand-up comedians, entrepreneurs who had self-financed billion dollar businesses, the rapidly growing field of design thinking, and musicians like John Legend, as well as executives inside a range of organizations such as Amazon, Pixar, Procter & Gamble, Google, 3M, General Motors, and Hewlett Packard.

Q: What about big bets? Why do you focus on little bets?

A: We all want to make big bets. That’s a Silicon Valley mantra. Be bold. Go big. But I think ingenious ideas are over-rated and that people routinely bet big on ideas that aren’t solving the right problems. Just as Pixar storytellers must make thousands of little bets to develop a movie script, Hewlett Packard cofounder Bill Hewlett said HP needed to make 100 small bets on products to identify six that could be breakthroughs. So, little bets are for learning about problems and opportunities while big bets are for capitalizing upon them.

Q:Why is it more important than ever to master a "little bets" approach?

A: We live in especially uncertain and rapidly changing, yet risk-averse times that make it easy to get stuck. Little bets provide an antidote. Take Twitter. It originated out of little bets made inside Odeo, a podcasting company that was going nowhere. After asking employees for suggestions about what the company should do, Odeo founder Evan Williams gave Jack Dorsey two weeks to develop a prototype for his short messaging idea. Twitter was soon born. The same is true for all of us. Unlike previous generations, people now change jobs every few years and, according to researchers, will even switch careers up to six or seven times over a lifetime. That’s a very different world than previous generations. Little bets must become a way to see what’s around the next corner, lest we stagnate.

Q: What surprised you most in what you found?

A: One of the things that constantly surprised me was how many similar approaches and methods spanned across the vastly different fields. Story developers at Pixar, Army General H.R. McMaster, a counterinsurgency expert, and Frank Gehry use the same basic methods and of course make lots of little bets. They even use similar language and vocabulary – like "using constraints" or "reframing problems"– but they all learned their approaches through their experiences, not in school. General McMaster may have said it best when he said that the parallels between these very different experts were "eerie."

Q: What companies are best at little bets?

A: Amazon, Pixar, Apple, and to a lesser extent Toyota, 3M, and Google have little bets infused into their cultural DNA. Steve Jobs has evangelized about the benefits of the approach described in Little Bets more than any other CEO, while little bets are a way of life at Amazon, whether the company is expanding into new markets or improving internal processes. And, I wrote a lot about Pixar because it’s the closest thing to a constant learning organization using little bets around today. But any company or team can make use of little bets. Procter & Gamble is an example of a more risk-averse organization that is working to build a culture of little bets.

Q:What’s the first step any of us can start taking tomorrow to start benefitting from a little bets approach?

A: Commit to making a little bet. It doesn’t matter on what. Look for interesting problems and work toward larger aspirations. Maybe it’s going to be a presentation about starting a new nonprofit. Or maybe it’s trying a different approach for a work meeting. Once you get into the habit of making little bets, they can constantly open up new possibilities that just might lead to something big.


Review

"Highly engaging ... Little Bets will help you challenge the status quo and discover extraordinary new possibilities in whatever endeavor you're engaged in" -- Howard Schultz, Chairman And Ceo Of Starbucks "An enthusiastic, example-rich argument for innovating in a particular way" Wall Street Journal "Want a big idea? Start little. Whether you're an entrepreneur or an artist, Peter Sims shows you how big breakthroughs start with little bets" -- Chip Heath, Author Of Made To Stick And Switch "Little Bets is easily the most delightful and useful innovation book published in the last decade" -- Robert I. Sutton, Author Of Good Boss, Bad Boss "Put [t]his book on your reading list" TechCrunch

Product Details

  • File Size: 1879 KB
  • Print Length: 225 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1439170436
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (April 19, 2011)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0043RSJTU
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #52,082 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 68 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Anecdotes but Nothing Groundbreaking June 17, 2011
Format:Hardcover
This book has some interesting anecdotal stuff. I especially liked the stories on Pixar, and the creative process as it relates to learning in young children.

That said, most of the time when I flipped the page and saw the referenced person - Muhammad Yunnus, General McMaster, or Malcolm Gladwell - as I reader of Tom Ricks' Fiasco, Banker to the Poor, The Tipping Point, and books on Lean Start-Up and Customer Development, I already knew where the author was headed and was left underwhelmed.

I'm not usually moved to review books on Amazon, however, I honestly believe the book is overrated as it stands with a lot of four and five star reviews. The book has a great title that certainly drew me in, yet I didn't find anything groundbreaking inside.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great lesson for risk takers April 19, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
_Little Bets_ by Peter Sims is an excellent read. As someone who led a product design team at Intel, has a handful of U.S. patents and has dabbled in film making, I can tell you these insights play well across industry. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in tapping into the design revolution to improve their work and help change the world.

I often measure content I consume according to how much I think about it the next day. This book left me with a number of outstanding insights that I apply consistently.

Sims explains that when it comes to getting great work out of people be the student a coworker or yourself, the key seems to be to praise people for *effort* that they put in rather than merely praising them for their outcomes. It seems silly given that context to say that this book achieves great things but it does!

The book is well researched, and draws from a number of different fields. While many business books focus solely on one industry or one school of thought, Sims draws from an incredibly diverse palette to establish some consistent themes. We hear stories from comedians, military leaders, filmmakers, architects, and even a few entrepreneurs.

The key insight from this book is to treat life is an experiment where failure teaches as much a success. If you can scale your bets to the right size (a.k.a. little) is show that failures are less painful and allow course corrections. You can then place larger bets on things that will be successful. Trust me on this little bet -- buy the book.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Having read and reviewed True North, a book Peter Sims co-authored with Bill George, I was curious to know what he has to say about "how breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries." I was pleased but hardly surprised that Sims has a great deal of value to share, much of it (as he duly acknowledges) gained from conversations with or rigorous study of various thought leaders and they include a few surprises. Chris Rock, for example. His routines are the result of an exhausting process of continuous (mostly failed) experiments, constant modification, and subtle refinement. Other experimental innovators and thought leaders include Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin (co-founders of Google), Saras Sarasvathy, Pixar's Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, Chet Pipkin, Frank Gehry, Bing Gordon, U.S. Army Brigadier General H.R. McMaster, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Steve Jobs, Jeffrey Dyer and Hal Gregersen, Richard Wiseman, and Eric von Hippel.

As Sims explains, his book's proposition is based on an experimental approach that involves a lot of little bets and certain creative methods to identify possibilities and build up to great outcomes eventually, after frequent failures. (Actually, experimental innovation has no failures; rather, there are initiatives that have not as yet succeeded, each of which is a precious learning opportunity.) "At the core of this experimental approach, little bets are concrete actions taken to discover, test, and develop ideas that are achievable and affordable. They begin as creative possibilities that get iterated and refined over time, and they are particularly valuable when trying to navigate amid uncertainty, create something new, or attend to open-ended problems.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not much of a book November 10, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The idea is great; little bets are a great way to go. But there just isn't enough here for a book, and the examples given are repetitive and frequently struggling and stretching to be on-point. It reminds me of a high school essay where you hadn't done much research, but still had to produce the 10 page term paper.

It seems like the publisher noticed the book was a bit light, so they've added page after page of notes, references, resources to explore, etc; nearly 30% of the book is puff. Frankly, you could go to the author's Q&A page on Amazon, read the interview, and have all the ideas and value of the book for 5 minutes reading, and $0. Save your time and your money on this one.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best busines books I've read April 14, 2011
Format:Hardcover
This book is easily one of the top-10 business books I've read. But it's about more than just business. The bets that Peter Sims talks about reach across every aspect of life, from business, to art, to child-rearing.

Making little bets is about doing little tests. Try something. Get feedback. Refine. Get more feedback. The creative process is a hands-on experiment. Lasting, reproducible success comes from small corrections over time. The feedback you get from making little bets leads to the best outcomes... the ones you didn't and couldn't predict.

I was fortunate to get my hands on an advance proof of "Little Bets" and was hooked from the introduction. Having been a courtroom criminal defense lawyer for more than a decade, having built and sold a successful tech company, and now working on my second tech start-up, this book spoke to me. Although I didn't know what to call it at the time, my successes in the courtroom and in business came from taking a little bets approach.

If you are creative (especially if you work in corporate America), this book will probably solidify what you already know in your heart and give you the tools, confidence and case-studies to challenge the status quo. If you manage creative people, you can't afford to overlook this remarkable book. And if you're a parent, or teacher, or coach, or community leader, this book will give you tools that will make a world of difference to those who look up to you.

Do yourself a favor. Order this book now.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Top 5 favorite book on entrepreneurship
This book forms the basis of my philosophy for entrepreneurship. Read it before launching any new idea/product.
Published 11 days ago by Eric Morrow
2.0 out of 5 stars light on content
Easy to read yet poorly written, referencing the same few pieces of content over and over. As a blog post, article or even series of articles, great. As a book, repetitive.
Published 23 days ago by Neil Bamber
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for entrepreneurs of any kind
I found this book to be incredibly useful and interesting. The usefulness came in very clear best practices that the author gathered from interviews and looking at some of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Doug H.
5.0 out of 5 stars Little Bets and big win
This is more or less the theory of Lean Start-ups.

You though the mud on the wall and see which one sticks.
Published 2 months ago by Tc Wang
4.0 out of 5 stars must read for management at all levels
Fantastic book. I love how it challenges consensus thinking. Provides a number of vignettes on successful creative processes. must read for management at all levels.
Published 4 months ago by Miguel Ramirez
4.0 out of 5 stars Little Bets-Large Idea
Ideas are innovative and well articulated. Short book has a lot of substance and is interesting from start to finish.
Published 6 months ago by rich braugh
5.0 out of 5 stars Every big idea is a collection of little ideas
This is one of my favorite books. It demonstrates the power of small changes in a world that is obsessed with the next billion-dollar idea. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Jag Randhawa
3.0 out of 5 stars Small is beautiful
A great book that illustrates the concept of doing things incrementally and not being afraid to fail. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Robert D. Crane
2.0 out of 5 stars A lot of stories, lacks depth
Its okay but it is clear that the writer has not ingested or practiced these ideas. There were a lot stories, this fella did this, this company did that but no thoughtful analysis... Read more
Published 8 months ago by ForexTech
5.0 out of 5 stars Great to remove the fear and pressure from long-term planning
Little Bets breaks down some of the fears about always needing to "go big". Success doesn't come from grand, long-term visions made by oracles on high. Read more
Published 9 months ago by J. Shirley
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More About the Author

Peter Sims is an entrepreneur and award-winning author. His latest book is Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, which grew out of a five-year collaboration with faculty at Stanford's Institute of Design (the d.school), as well as his previous work in venture capital with Summit Partners, including as part of the team that established Summit's European Office in London. He was also the coauthor with Bill George of the best-seller True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, a member of General Electric's Innovation Advisory Panel, an Innosight Fellow, and cofounder of Fuse Corps, a social venture that places entrepreneurial leaders on year-long grassroots projects with mayors and governors to tackle some of America's most pressing problems.

See more at: http://petersims.com




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May 4, 2011 by Pete Petersen |  See all 2 posts
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