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on October 16, 2016
When I was first assigned this book, I was a bit hesitant about the content and what it could offer me. As a young entrepreneur, there are always some parts of doubt we have with ideas and the contents that could make or break us. Aspiring entrepreneurs and even existing entrepreneurs should look into it. I learned interesting information about Steve Jobs and Chris Rock that I wasn’t aware of. I have a better appreciation of their crafts and what it took to get where they are today. You will learn to appreciate your failures because they make for a better story and good feedback to fix what wasn’t right in the first place. From learning how militant individuals make their strategic moves with different approaches to conquer constraints in the war. Throughout the book you learn that some people depend on luck like Tim Russert’s experience to the big screen with “Meet the Press”. He believed he could “learn a lit bit from a whole lot of people.” His Knowledge that he learned along the way and persistence got him where he is today. There wasn’t anything that I didn’t like about this book. Which is a first for me due to the fact that I don’t usually engage in personal reading outside of assignments. It made me want to reach out and look for more books to prepare me mentally.
I am a current student at University of Baltimore taking Entrepreneurship course and this was my recommended reading.
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on July 1, 2017
It was as if Sims has read many books on innovation and entrepreneurial-thinking related topics and is casually recounting his most useful takeaways with some repeats.

This book's points are:
Have a growth mindset where you find happiness in making progress. Never place self-worth in your achievements, because when things don't go well, you start to associate negative thoughts with the effort. Just learn to love learning - it's a positive feedback loop.
Improvise and play - there's more brain activity there.
Humor makes better team rapport, establishes trust.
Luck is about being aware of opportunities.
Constructive feedback goes like [ok great, do what you want to do] "And _____" (your input).
Projects need constraints. Break large projects down into many small parts and hone in on the performance of the small components to inform decisions.
And all in all, failing is ok. Try a lot of new little things, and review them to make strategic decisions as results come in.

Sims makes his points based on the organizational behavior of Pixar, Steve Jobs' story, recent changes in Military tactics since the Vietnam war, Frank Gehry's process.

It's a book that reiterates it's main point tongue in cheek with no counter argument to warn those who may be experimenting a little too much, who just ends up drifting around as a jack-of-all-trades. I think that it is important to fail, but there has to be a balance. There has to be grit and perseverance for the big picture, the big overarching goal. It can't just all be little bets. Hard to say how much.
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on August 26, 2015
As a high tech entrepreneur, I rate “Little Bets” right up there with my other favorite startup book, "Crossing the Chasm.” If you are an entrepreneur, or someone wishing to glean an insight into the magic formula of Silicon Valley, this book is invaluable.

It lays out a brilliant, agile approach to innovation in business and product development. Sims demonstrates through many fascinating anecdotes that people, and organizations have a greater chance of success by embracing change and maneuvering nimbly with fast iterations.

Since reading the book, the phrase “little bets” has become part of my vocabulary, and I’ve used it to discuss several projects and startup ideas. I've also shared the concept of little bets with other entrepreneurs who have all unreservedly embraced it. It seems many of us are paralyzed by the misplaced belief that we need a grand master plan before we can start any endeavor. It’s liberating to ditch that notion and just begin with “little bets.”

Perhaps what I love most about the book is that I feel a stronger camaraderie with my fellow innovators having read it. “Little Bets” validates my natural approach to ideation, and has reassured me that my creative process isn’t something random and unique to me. The book is very well written and extremely easy to read, and I had a hard time putting it down. In fact, I ended up reading eagerly into the early hours of the morning and finishing it in less than two days.

My hope is that more organizations embrace “little bets.” Not only do I think it likely that these organizations will become more innovative and successful, but I believe people within the organizations will feel less stifled, and as a result will be more creative, happier, and fulfilled.
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on December 7, 2012
As the author points out, `the certainty of uncertainty is becoming more evident with the accelerating pace of technological change.' As a result, traditional approaches to problem solving, while still valuable when much is known, are making way to an approach called `little bets' when much is not known and requires problem finding. The book describes the characteristics of this trend, and provides strategies that we may use to benefit from changing our mind sets and way of thinking.

Little bets are concrete actions taken to discover, test, and develop ideas that are achievable and affordable. They are particularly valuable when trying to navigate amid uncertainty, create something new, or attend to open-ended problems. In today's environment these situations are on the increase.

Fundamental to the little bets approach is that we: 1) learn by doing, 2) immerse ourselves in how things work from the ground up, 3) use the insights we gathered throughout the process, and 4) reorient ourselves to become more flexible in pursuit of larger goals and aspirations.

Practicing little bets frees us up from the expectation that we should know everything we need to know before we begin. Redefining problems and failures as opportunities focuses our attention on insights to be gained rather than worrying about false starts or the risks we're taking. By focusing on doing, rather than planning, learning about the risks and pitfalls of ideas rather than trying to predict them with precision upfront, this experimental approach develops growth mind based through effort rather than a fixed mind set based on ability.

The author provides several strategies to begin the transformation of an admittedly difficult mind shift:

*Use prototypes, i.e. just taking action invariably presents us with discovery that we might otherwise not have found.
*Break large projects down into smaller problems to be solved.
*Dig deep and observe problems from what he calls `a worm's eye view.

Using these strategies, we receive several benefits: we learn about factors that cannot be understood beforehand, we discover new ideas, and develop additional means to attain goals.

The book is an eye opening experience to the value of problem finding vs. problem solving and provides a view that most of us have not considered. I highly recommend it.
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on March 8, 2015
Little Bets was a phenomenal book and it is definitely a read for other entrepreneur students. The gist of the book is simply “how to make small bets” whether they be liner or spread out. The fact we are taking these little steps to work towards a bigger aspirations allows us to go through that “risk” grey area without focusing so much on the risk and wanting to quit but on the bigger picture at hand, our solution to a problem. “Failing quickly to learn fast” was probably one of the best quotes I have found in the book because it helps future ENTR to students realize that each failure that we come in contact shouldn’t make us want to stop and give up, it should be a guide that shows us, hey we failed, but let’s do it again but this time let do it different. Let us work through these small bets and see which one will allow us to get to that bigger picture. One thing I have earned between this book and other entrepreneur books questions. Never be afraid to ask questions and Sims chapter “Questions are the new answers” should be the foundation of all businesses that we start, large or small. All the stories that Peter Sims shared between Pixar, HP, Apple, John Legend and Kanye West showed that different areas of the business world all have one thing in common, reaching their goal no matter what the bet they have to place.
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VINE VOICEon May 14, 2011
"The writers for the humor publication the Onion, known for its hilarious headlines, propose roughly six hundred possibilities for eighteen headlines each week," reports Peter Sims in his fascinating book, Little Bets. That's just a three percent success rate for headline writers. Yikes. Or maybe not yikes.

Subtitled, "How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries," we quickly learn--through dozens of mini-case studies--that innovation comes through hard work, experimentation and bosses who are cheerleaders for failure. (And I would also guess innovation happens with a healthy dose of weekly staff encouragement, motivation and hoopla-type fun. I mean, what if your best headline ideas were ranked 19th each week?)

Example: Comedian Chris Rock tests, tests and re-tests every joke--and every word--for up to six months (or even a year) at his local comedy club before he takes his hour-long act on the road or on national television.

Example: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has built an "experimental discovery mentality" so that "whether or not employees are doing so is a part of their performance reviews."

The author adds, "Like Chris Rock, Bezos has accepted uncertainty; he knows that he cannot reliably predict which ideas for new markets will work and which won't. He's got to experiment. One such example is a feature the company launched that would compare a customer's entire purchase history with its millions of other customers in order to find the one person with the closest matching history. In one click, Amazon would show you what items that customer purchased.

"`No one used it,' Bezos has said. `Our history is full of things like that, where we came up with an innovation that we thought was really cool, and the customers didn't care.'"

It's all about making a series of little bets--not one humongous bet--just little ones with the hope that just a couple will pay big dividends. "Experimental innovators like Rock, Brin and Page, Bezos, and Beethoven don't analyze new ideas too much too soon, try to hit narrow targets on unknown horizons, or put their hopes into one big bet. Instead of trying to develop elaborate plans to predict the success of their endeavors, they do things to discover what they should do. They have all attained extraordinary success by making a series of little bets."

The book surprised me. I expected cute little success stories like, "Well...I just flipped the spaghetti onto the wall--and it stuck!" Instead, the innovators of little experiments were actually productive creative teams of "rigorous, highly analytical, strategic and pragmatic" people. There are no step-by-step formulas.

Instead, there is a focus on five fundamentals: 1) Experiment (fail quickly to learn fast); 2) Play (a fun environment never snuffs out or prematurely judges the ideas--the case study on Pixar is amazing); 3) Immerse (get out with customers and learn from the ground up); 4) Reorient (make small wins and necessary pivots); and 5) Iterate (repeat, refine and test frequently).

Caution though: this approach is a 180 plunge from what the profs taught us. He quotes Sir Ken Robinson, "We are educating people out of their creativity." Plus, most management approaches are all about reducing errors and risk--not giving license to having a good whack at a half-baked idea. Goodness, this is God's money we're wasting!

So...is this just one more niche business book--a good read, a few memorable stories--and then back to real-life-in-the-trenches? Hopefully, no. Leverage the insights of Little Bets in your planning process--with one mega-caveat. "The fact is that much of what we would like to be able to predict is unpredictable. Global market movements, political and cultural complexities, and demographic shifts constantly reshape the ground beneath us. This certainty of uncertainty is becoming ever more evident with the accelerating pace of technological change. The Internet has reduced communications barriers and allows new players from different corners of the world to rapidly emerge and compete globally. Thus a key flaw with the top-down, central planning approach is how limited it is in allowing us to be limber and able to discover new ways of doing things."

Yikes...I've exceeded my prudent word limit--but I have another 100 paragraphs or whole pages of Little Bets highlighted you'll have to discover for yourself. BTW, I read this on my new Amazon Kindle--and love the highlighting and note-making options. Perfect for airplanes; but not as easy to pass around the room during my workshops and board consultations! I'm still undecided about it.
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on June 11, 2013
Little Bets offers deep insights on the creative process and on the psychology of entrepreneurship. The nucleus of the book is an exploration of the experimental discovery process including:

- plant many small seeds, rapidly cull the failures, water the wins
- the ability to persist and embrace failure as a necessary part of the learning process
- taking the time to immerse yourself in your customers' experience to uncover their problems and needs
- collect anthropological feedback on an ongoing basis (rather than planning in a cubicle)
- developing networks of diverse individuals to gather information by observing, questioning (what if? why? why not?), and listening
- get comfortable with being uncomfortable
- instill a culture of prototyping, playfulness, and improvisation
- encourage everyone to share ideas and solutions constructively (without regard to hierarchy)
- actively seek out problems
- encourage others to pursue their interests & ideas
- cultivate your extreme users (aka early adopters)

Beyond this core, the book offers many inspiring stories. As an author, I especially appreciated the masterful way the author wove stories across chapters.
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on February 20, 2012
The media often leads us to believe that many of the famous celebrities we see on TV and the successful technology CEOs we read about in the newspaper are born with special, secret powers. These special powers enable them to effortlessly dream up innovative ideas that the rest of us could never imagine. There are also fairy tales about another group of innovators who don't have special powers, but are the lucky beneficiaries of freak coincidences that lead to ingenious designs or theories. Sir Isaac Newton gets hit on the head with an apple then discovers gravity. In Back to the Future Doc Brown hits his head then comes up with a design for the flux capacitor.

In Little Bets, Peter Sims debunks many of these myths. While there certainly are prodigies in the world for which innovation is much easier to come by, many of the world's most creative artists and companies actually have to work quite hard to achieve their results. Sims provides detailed examples of how companies ranging from 3M to Pixar and artists ranging from Beethoven to Chris Rock, arrive at innovation through a series of incremental steps (little bets) to discover, test and develop new ideas.

The book is full of interesting theories which challenge the traditional approaches to innovation and management that big companies often take. Sims explains how companies such as HP fall victim to the tyranny of large numbers by only pursuing $1 billion opportunities that others have already capitalized upon. He also explains what is known as the HiPPO phenomenon which occurs at companies - the Highest Paid Person's Opinion (HiPPO) usually dominates how people makes decisions inside organizations. Sims also covers some familiar principles such as Fail Fast and Early Adopters in greater depth than I have seen in other works.

The writing style is amazingly easy to read. A storytelling approach similar to Malcolm Gladwell's approach is used to explain the principles.

I rated it only four stars, because I did not find the book to be quite as compelling as some of the other amazing books that I have read recently. But I would not hesitate to recommend investing a few hours to read it.
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on November 30, 2011
Sometimes reading the summary of a lot of books can be great, but sometimes you feel things are missing. I really liked Little Bets as it stands for everything I believe in:
- agile development - launch to market early and test, iterate
- a culture that accepts mistakes is superior ("You have to catch people making mistakes and make it so that it's cool. You have to make it undesirable to play it safe.")
- growth mind-set - people searching to live to learn and see life as a long education tend to succeed better

What was completely new to me and eye-openers were two things:
- Sarasvathy's concept Affordable Loss Principle - "Seasoned entrepreneurs, she emphasizes, will tend to determine in advance what they are willing to lose, rather than calculating expected gains." I have founded and built a company, and helped many others, and I feel that probably to some extent I do think more of "opportunity maximizing" than "risk minimizing", but I recognize part of the idea to look at the different scenarios and avoid those with possible "deadly" outcomes.
- Richard Wiseman's research of luck - that "lucky people pay more attention to what's going on around them than unlucky people". I will read his books and blog next :)

The booked lacked a bit of conclusions, and it felt all to much like Peter Sims interviewed so amazing people he felt dwarfed and was afraid to add his own opinion. Too bad, because not it is a bit too much of a long magazine article with great topics, but the journalist leaves you with two pages of underlinings but no real "one-liner" that change you. Instead of making jewelry of the gold he found he leaves you with looking at the raw ore.

Here are my notes from the book: [...]
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on August 9, 2011
I purchased and read "Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries" by Peter Sims because Bob Sutton gave it a glowing review at his website. As usual, Bob was right. I did not love it as much as Bob, but I liked it enough to recommend it to you.

The main point of the book is the power of experimental innovation. Experimental innovators don't begin with a few big brilliant ideas. Instead, they discover what they should do via a series of "little bets" and small wins.

Learning by doing and having fun in the process are cornerstones of the experimental innovation process. This is nothing new. But he also highlights the importance of immersion, which I think people would be wise to pay a lot more attention to:

Take the time to get out into the world to gather fresh ideas and insights, in order to understand deeper human motivations and desires, and absorb how things work from the ground up. (p. 14).

When you understand why people do the things they do you have the ability to create unique solutions that force others to try to copy what you are doing. If you don't understand how and why things work, the best you can ever hope to achieve is strategic parity.

I don't normally like business books with lots of stories, and this one has lots of stories. But Sims does a very good job of telling a few interesting stories that support his main points quite well. I loved his story in Chapter 6 of how Muhammad Yunus immersed himself in the problem of poverty in Bangladesh and ultimately formulated the microfinance solution.

By absorbing poverty from the worm's eye view, asking lots of questions, and being open to changing his assumptions, Yunus could understand what he could not from a bird's eye view. (p. 102).

If you have entrepreneurial aspirations, you should read this book. Even if you don't think you want to be an entrepreneur someday, if your success as a leader requires enabling your people to continually produce creative insights and innovative solutions, I'm betting you will find this book worth your time.
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