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Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  1,350 ratings  ·  129 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
Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Published (first published April 5th 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries by Peter Sims was chosen by Soundview Executive Book Summaries as one of the Top 30 Business Books of 2014.


Rather than starting with a big idea or planning a whole project before you begin, many successful people and businesses make a methodical series of little bets. Little bets are low risk actions taken to test an idea. These little bets help determine direction while providing critical information from a n
If you're interested in innovation, testing and thinking outside the box, you need to read this book. After finishing, I actually bought one for every person at Go Overseas. It tells the story of how best to innovate: Not just creating a product and hoping people like it, but making "little bets" along the way. Start small, test, and learn from your users. The book does a great job of weaving in real life stories from individuals like Chris Rock and Seinfeld, telling the story of how they come u ...more
Gregg Bell
Not much here. I heard about this book while listening to an audio book in my car. The title and the short description were intriguing to me and so I bought the book. Well, the book's not bad. It's a quick and easy read, but there's not much substance to it.

If you haven't heard or read or seen movies or... (fill in the blank) enough about Steve Jobs you might like this book. However, Steve Jobs took ENORMOUS bets at Pixar, spending countless millions for a minute or two animated video (that even
This is an excellent book which delves into many contexts in which people can exercise many concepts, including the concept of little bets. Yet it’s about much more than little bets. I began seeing this book more as a great overview of a powerful collection of concepts that will help people who are, or want to be, contributors to the world, while enjoying life.

There is some repetition of the little bets concepts. Yet to me, these were quite valuable because they paint a better picture of the div
Jock Mcclees
It was a good book. Only downside was that the examples came from so few companies/individuals. It makes the point that things are changing so quickly that taking a long time to design, create and build a new product or service can mean it is outdated when it is complete. If you make a series of small bets about how it should work, you can fail a lot and it won't kill you, but more importantly, you get feedback more quickly and can end up with a better product more quickly and that fits users' n ...more
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
Kevin Eikenberry
This book was recommended to me by Tim Sanders during a teleseminar I hosted last month for our Remarkable Leadership Learning System Members and a few guests. When I received my copy a few days later, I opened it, and while I had other work to do, read for 20 minutes before I even realized it.

As I read more on my vacation, I was as captured as I was by the first few minutes. This book talks about an important skill for organizations and individuals – creativity and innovation – but comes at it
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
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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
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
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
Michelle S. Berryman
Good book, quick read. Sims does a nice job of contextualizing the importance of having a growth mindset and cultivating a culture of embracing, learning from, building on and nurturing small ideas. The book uses a series of stories to illustrate how small ideas can be cultivated into breakthrough innovations effectively. It's highly consumable and written for a general business audience. The lessons from the book can be easily interpreted and applied across disciplines and industries.
Arthur Cravan
I don't know what it was about this book, but I found it dead boring. It was very difficult to read. I simply couldn't pay it any attention. I don't have any idea why, there must be something there, something in between the lines that my core rejects... anyhow, I got through it, & there's some good information, & overall it's probably a pleasant book, so I feel it deserves the 3... but I must say, it was difficult for me. Don't ask why.
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
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.
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
Could have been an interesting article, but the need to fill in pages to create a book make this a very annoying read. The main point is repeated ad-nauseum and the case studies are not really that convincing.

Also, this is basically the idea behind lean startup. Recommend reading that book as it provides a much better scope of the idea.
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
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
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FULL Creative Lib...: Little Bets 2 7 Mar 06, 2014 11:14AM  
  • The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion
  • The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge
  • The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators
  • The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage
  • Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don't
  • The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
  • Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders
  • Street Smarts: An All-Purpose Tool Kit for Entrepreneurs
  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques
  • Weird Ideas That Work: How to Build a Creative Company
  • The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us About Innovation
  • The Idea Hunter: How to Find the Best Ideas and Make Them Happen
  • Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements
  • The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO's Strategies for Defeating the Devil's Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization
  • Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others
  • Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rule-breakers, and Changemakers
  • Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow
  • Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content
The Just Shall Live by Faith, (All Others Pay Tithes) True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership True North/Finding Your True North: A Personnel Guide The Folio Club - Issue No. 4

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“At the beginning of any new idea, the possibilities can seem infinite, and that wide-open landscape of opportunity can become a prison of anxiety and self-doubt. This is a key reason why failing fast with low-risk prototypes the way Chris Rock does is so helpful: If we haven’t invested much in developing an idea, emotionally or in terms of time or resources, then we are more likely to be able to focus on what we can learn from that effort than on what we’ve lost in making it. Prototyping is one of the most effective ways to both jump-start our thinking and to guide, inspire, and discipline an experimental approach.” 0 likes
“Thoen beautifully describes the value of prototyping: Potential users of ideas are more comfortable sharing their honest reactions when it’s rough, just as people at P&G are less emotionally invested in their ideas. “The barrier of getting feedback from the consumer side is lower,” Thoen says, “and the barrier for accepting feedback from the company’s point of view is lower as well.” 0 likes
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