Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries
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Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  649 ratings  ·  96 reviews
How did Pixar go from producing CAT scan images to winning Oscars?

How did Steve Jobs turn Apple into a world-beating company?

How does Amazon's culture encourage innovation?

How can you find the creative solutions demanded by our ever-changing world?

The answer, according to renowned business thought-leader Peter Sims, is LITTLE BETS. In these fast-moving times, it's next to...more
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published (first published April 5th 2011)
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Clif Hostetler
The "little bets" referenced by the book's title are low-risk actions taken to discover, develop, and test an idea that represent a potentially better way to do something. Numerous low-risk trials can allow appropriate mid-step adjustments and changes that can improve the prospects of success. Failures that occur along the way can be accepted as positive feedback that point toward a change in direction or perhaps ending the proposed venture before large financial losses are experienced.

There's r...more
Marc Brackett
This was a fascinating little book. It pulls from numerous studies, books, and real life examples to make a most convincing case.

Overlooked I think were the differences between self identified lucky and unlucky people. The study had the two groups count the number of pictures in a newspaper. It took the unlucky group on average 2 minutes while the lucky group finished the task in seconds. What could possibly explain the difference in performance? Turns out on page two which had a picture that t...more
Laura
Some take-aways that I appreciated:
- Ask people what they think before you have a professional looking model. Create something out of cardboard or duct tape (everyone's favorite). People feel more free to make recommendations or give honest input when they see it's a work in progress.

- When people provide feedback, there's no penalty. Create an atmosphere where it's okay to disagree. Humor is key. Too bad I'm not funny.

- Success hides problems. (This makes a lot of sense to me)

- When going s...more
Evan
If you are the kind who actively seeks out advice on how to succeed, you won't be surprised at the advice Peter Sims has given. I most certainly was delighted by how having the mindset is so vital in succeeding in your endeavors.

In this book, there are a few mindsets, namely
1) Making little bets so that you can make big bets
2) Cultivating a growth mindset - To deal with failure / obstacles
3) Being proactive - Proactively failing so that you can learn faster
4) Knowing how to play - To make each...more
John
This book is about using small failures to define the path to large successes.

It's OK to feel around in the dark with the only plan to move forward once the path becomes clear. This is not a passive strategy by any means; but it respects that you can't plot a straight course from where you are to where you want to be, and that this is acceptable.

"The best way to predict the future is to invent it." -- Alan Kay, technologist & inventor

I had an epiphany while reading it; I left a job of 18 yea...more
Neil
I finally read another book. I'm really proud of myself. It only took a month to get through 160 pages.

Anyways, though, this book's fine. I like the attitude of books like this, though the content never really set me on fire -- this guy seems to have interviewed like 6 subjects and just reintroduces them constantly, especially Pixar. (Every chapter, each of which teaches a supposedly different lesson, will have a moment like "....FOR INSTANCE AT PIXAR" or "...REMEMBER AT PIXAR WHEN..."). The mes...more
Heather
Good book. I like the premise and reminder of looking for small connections that lead to innovation....and practicing in small arenas where you can learn from your mistakes quickly in order to move on and grow and improve. There are some great references and stories and examples of innovators who were willing to learn. I like the tie to anthropology and social science and how people use their diverse experiences to make connections and create something new, as well as the examples of people talk...more
corina
This book collects a lot of design thinking principles together under the umbrella of "little bets," i.e. prototyping and the "fail early and often" idea. There are basically just a few case studies that get brought up repeatedly (Pixar, The Sketches of Frank Gehry, Chris Rock) but a smattering of interesting other research comes up too. Like how lucky people actually just are more open-minded/observant. So it's Malcolm Gladwell -esque but the fact that I found myself most skimming is a sign tha...more
Matthew
Not really a great book, but a SHORT book with a lot of good ideas. The shortness gives it the extra star, because it is definitely worth the small investment of time it asks.

The central idea of Peter Sims' book is that perfectionism and a need to proceed with a well-defined plan hold many of us back from achieving what we could and from unleashing our creativity. Sims argues that creativity, in keeping with a "design thinking" approach, requires us to ACT in order to discover the solution we ar...more
Philippe
Little bets is an accessible and well-written book that straddles the fuzzy boundaries between creativity research, corporate innovation, and design thinking. Although Sims' writerly approach doesn't perceptly differ from many others in this crowded segment (à la Gladwell) there is something affectionately intelligent in his tone of voice that made me want to read on. Also in terms of subject matter, the book delivers few, if any, really novel insights. But still, I found Sims' plea for a cultur...more
Patrik Hallberg
Was blown away by this little book. It starts with talking about Chris Rock, Brin & Page, Bezos and Beethoven and how they do things to discover what they should do. At the core little bets is an experimental approach where you take actions to discover, test and develop ideas that are achievable and affordable. The book then takes of with the section about static vs growth mindset. As a parent I found this section very valuable and I had a long discussion around this with my son Bill. Then c...more
Pete
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joe Donatelli
It’s a wonderful book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is curious about why some people, businesses and ideas succeed and others don’t. Sims’ theory is that taking small, methodical steps, failing often, embracing failure and then making necessary corrections has allowed successful individuals and organizations to reap unintended windfalls and achieve extroardinary outcomes.

One of the many examples Sims uses throughout the book is Chris Rock. His stand-up specials are sharp, Sims writes, bec...more
Jamie
This book centers around the idea that innovations can be derived through giant leaps and small iterations, but that it is the small bets that are in reach for most of us. Peter starts by outlining the importance of a growth versus fixed mindset; to recognize that intelligence can be developed and to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, learn from criticism and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. Peter notes that praising ability alone reduces persistence, whil...more
Guillem Tosca díaz
I think the message in this book is amazing. The message can be summed-up as follows:

We tend to be over-analytical when creating new things. That is we want to craft a perfect blueprint and then start making that blueprint a reality. The author advocates that it is better to plan-as-we-go. That is, it is more effective to start working on a project and improve it repeatedly, than it is to try to have it all planed at the start.

That strongly resonates with my experience as a student. I often fo...more
Taka
Cool concept, not very detailed--

The book's concepts are all cool and interesting.

The book combines the findings of Carow Dweck (fixed vs. growth mindsets), Eric von Hippel (active users and innovation), Csikszentmihalyi (problem finders vs. problem solvers), Richard Wiseman (being open to experiences increases your luck), and other research and innovations in psychology, economics, and business.

The concept of little bets is basically this: creative things emerge from random, non-linear, unpredi...more
Lucas
Same concept as Jim Collins's "Fire Bullets, Then Cannonballs" in Great By Choice.

Big Bets Versus Little Bets
The Growth Mind-Set (vs the fixed mind-set - always learning)
Failing Quickly to Learn Fast
The Genius of Play (improvisation leads to creativity)
Problems Are the New Solutions (constraints shape and focus problems and provide clear challenges to overcome)
Questions Are the New Answers (ask questions of your customers, experience the user experience first-hand and let them help solve their o...more
Mars Dorian
Good, informative book about creativity. The author tells interesting stories about how people use various creative disciplines (e.g. taking small risks, having a playful attitude, being open to new ideas) to discover breakthroughs.

But the topic could be summarized in one big blog post instead of writing a whole book about it.
Tim
Fantastic book on the process of success through little risks/bets and failures. The author did a remarkable job of melding examples from all angles: the comedy of Chris Rock, the architecture of Frank Gehry, the political analysis of Tim Russert, the near-fall and rise of Pixar, and more.

The most fascinating part of this book is his review and discussion of the fixed vs growth mind set. The amount of research he shared and his analysis combined with the researchers' own discoveries are extreme...more
Antoinette Perez
The best sound bites from this book are in the first 80 pages. And when the author is on target, he is ON TARGET. If you stay in plan mode and put too much effort and expense into a big bet, you risk losing big. If you jump into action mode and let the payoffs and losses from small bets inform a path to a big goal, you build momentum you really can't get any other way. I appreciate the examples from many different perspectives (including business, architecture, military, stand-up comedy).

The re...more
Malcolm Bastien
It was a nice read that really collected the broadest collection of design and innovation material I've read in any book. It actually felt like a collection of all the design thinking and innovation reading I've done in the past few years.

It covered stuff like improvisation in business, design thinking, agile software development, prototyping, ethnography studies, military strategy, problem framing, and opening up socially to new possibilities.

Is it clear to me how to take a "little bets" approa...more
Robert
A great book that illustrates the concept of doing things incrementally and not being afraid to fail. The book is easy to read and contains plenty of examples and relevant material. The book also features plenty of resources for further reading and study.

I perhaps would have liked to seen the book be a little bit longer and in depth but as a starting point it is good. It is certainly a book that will demonstrate that not all successes come from huge developments, many in fact start out small and...more
Nick Ertz
I just finished Little Bets by Peter Sims. The book deals with innovation as an incremental activity and gives examples from the world of Pixar, Chris Rock, Amazon and a host of other famous people and institutions. The thesis is that innovation is successful when it is the practice of repeated trial and experiment. This is not the small innovation of line extensions, but real pushes by small steps in new directions. Even after a short exposé the case is compelling. But there is another thing in...more
Annette Walker
Nothing revolutionary, but good, relevant material in an easy-to-read book. It's an must-read for entrepreneurs and tech people. I've been a program manager for internet & software companies big (amazon.com) and small. Too often, people caught up in creating big, huge projects with no measurable interim goals. They create all or nothing huge bets. Avoid that with the concepts in this book.

Your crash course in what the book is about: break things down into small pieces. Small wins are import...more
Ninakix
I’ll be honest, I thought I wouldn’t like this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a pretty quick, easy read, but it dove into a bunch of fascinating topics, research and anecdotes that I’ve personally been interested in. I liked the approach of the book and the breadth of topics it covered, and I also appreciated the way it subtly captured a lot of things that people miss. Rather than making the whole book espousing how important it is to make “little bets,” there was actually a though...more
Jessica
A short and easy read. Rather repetitive and predictable, but my work paid for it, so can't complain really.

The information on Pixar was the most interesting to me. Also, how being lucky was a state of mind. That was really helpful, as I always thought I was just unlucky.

I do think the book would be better if there were more examples. Also, if there were more details on how we coud implement this is on personal lives. It needs more application. Maybe if he (the author) had performed an experime...more
Jim
While reading the first chapter, I thought that this was just a rehash of other books that I read due to the examples:Chris Rock, Mozart,Google. As I moved through the book, I was pleased that Sims had a number of fresh examples about Pixar, HP, Obama,General McMaster,the architect Frank Gehry,Steve Jobs, Tim Russert and Agile development of Software. Sims who has a VC background did a good job of interviewing and researching. The book narrative is 150 pages which to me is just right. I like tha...more
Kelly
This is a great book and bridges the gap between business and the arts. It considers market research, creativity, and process. This books shows the importance of listening. For me, this book justified things that I've always done. It helped me understand that these things are good processes and that even though they are not expressed in classes or in businesses, they make the world keep moving. While reading this book, I thought this needs to be required in freshman English classes, so that othe...more
Scot
This is an easy read and a worthy one. I gave it only 3 stars because, well, it's a self-help book, and how interesting can that be, right? But, it does offer a critique, mostly between the lines, of how our system of education limits our ability to think outside of existing, often faulty, schema, and why it is that private industry taking over research, especially medical research, is a pretty bad idea, all while offering a provocative set of ideas about creativity and discovery that are useful...more
Third Eye
I read this book since it was cited in The Economist. Alas, it is a blog article that has been stretched to a book. The key ideas are interesting if not original - the notion of experiential learning, throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks and learning from your mistakes. All this is ancient wisdom but it seems that every generation needs to relearn it and claim it as their own. There a lot of factual errors - the 1974 famine and Muhammad Yunus are from Bangladesh and not India.
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