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Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,350 Ratings  ·  188 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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Oct 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, mba
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
Clif Hostetler
Apr 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: current-events
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
Jun 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
(3.0) Note: do not audiobook this because of the reader.
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leadership
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
John Britto
May 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Little Bets" is good motivational book by Peter Sims. Though out this book Peter talks about how the great innovators/successors have reached that level is that they dreamt of the success at initial step itself or they started with small idea and that payed off and emerged as great thing. Entirely this was like an argument to achieve innovation in a particular way. There are so many examples that authors brings to user's consciousness like growth of Pixar, comedian Chris Rock, architect Frank G ...more
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fixed vs. growth mindset (Carol Dweck): develop growth mindset.
Embrace failure and learn from it.
Don't build a whole final solution, iterate through small experiments (bets) and see what works.
Minimum viable product: prototyping, fail fast/fail forward, learn, pivot...
Be a curious person and question everything to learn more. Meet new and different people, diversity will bring creativity.
Small Wins: signs that you are on the right track.

J.F. Penn
Sep 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
Interesting for creatives in dealing with experimentation, failure and improving creativity. Good anecdotal examples.
Boni Aditya
Nov 17, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology
The book is good, it is well structured. It has good reasoning, good research behind it and it is true about taking little risks while attempting to reach some huge goal. But, the book fails to create the WOW effect! I am happy that the author kept it short - with less than 250 pages - some authors pull it to 600 odd pages only because they can!

The concept is pretty straight forward, this was explained to my in a famous folklore of Indian History.

Alexander was Invading India, i.e. he was at Pun
May 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was interesting and entertaining. I liked the approach of the book and the tons of examples.
Edu Muniz Costa
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Provocative little book that present lots of exemples of people in any area of activities that use little trials, before doing any amazing thing. It’s a book that tell you “don’t be afraid, just try it and see what you get”.

Is that “don’t be afraid, try it” experience that takes you to the next level.

If you don’t try you have nothing to loose and nothing to win

If you wait the perfection to try you may loose lots of time and money

If you try a little thing you may loose a little but even if you
Walter Underwood
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good information, though the writing didn't really captivate me. It does make me want to read more about Pixar and HP. The Frank Gehry section really could have used some photos.

Feel free to skip stuff, for example, I already knew the growth mindset work from Prof. Carol Dweck. And I didn't find the fMRI studies of music improvisation very convincing.

Read it for the "big bet" failures at HP and how they learned from that, plus the Pixar stuff, "We never finish a film, we just release it." This a
Sep 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prior to reading this book, I already had an inkling of its main idea. Plenty of business books refer to this book so I had to get myself a copy and read it. It only took me a few hours to finish it because it is less than 200 pages. The premise of the book is to make a series of little bets to gauge the effectivity of a big goal. Small wins would be a good feedback for these little bets. In other words, fail fast and fail cheap. Peter Sims gives case studies of successful companies like Pixar a ...more
Tyler Roberts
This book struck me as a superficial look at some of the main ideas in Black Swan by Nassim Taleb, as well his following book Antifragile. For those looking for more concrete examples, I would recommend this book. However, personally, I prefer books that get to the root of an idea. In other words, this book will explain the importance of making little bets through a few stories, while Taleb has already explained why it's important to make little bets, and what other implications exist for said r ...more
Gregory Linton
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: higher-education
This little but very interesting book proposes the idea of making little bets that have the potential advance an organization with less risk. Even if the little bets result in failure, the organizations learns from it and continues to improve. He provides many real-world examples, including Chris Rock and Pixar.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was hoping for more of a framework, but after reading this book it turns out that I was already doing a lot of what the author was talking about and that the framework he recommends is essentially a twist on Agile development and small iterations. Oh well, at least I didn't buy this when it was brand new and full price.
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a nice book with actionable pieces of advice and some good examples. I had already heard most of the stories and information, so i didn't find the groundbreaking or too impressive. It's convenient that all these ideas are now available in a compact book and can be easily revisited.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is awesome! Using creativity, learning to quickly fail and challenging traditional ways of thinking! This book is excellent!!
Arie Rahayu
Nov 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
A light pop business book that's easy to read.
Morgan Bourgeois
Interesting ideas on iterative process but not always concrete enough to be usefull and a little bit repetitive.
Jay Hennessey
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this read - it pulls in concepts from lots of other great reads: Sprint, Mindset, and Yes And come to mind.
Andrew Minarick
Good idea, could have been a blog post
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gives you plenty of ideas to start small and test ideas. Hacking. Pilots. Exploratory committees.
Arun Rafi
May 07, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Stretched too much with the same point
Common examples.which aren't new anymore
Pixar, hp, Steve jobs and a lot of other repetitive stuff
Joe Conley
Probably better as a long blog post then an actual book.
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FULL Creative Lib...: Little Bets 2 7 Mar 06, 2014 11:14AM  
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  • Power: Why Some People Have it and Others Don't
  • Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others
  • The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion
  • The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators
  • Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements
  • The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work
  • Universal Traveler
  • Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders
  • Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean
  • Mindfire: Big Ideas for Curious Minds
  • Real Influence: Persuade Without Pushing and Gain Without Giving In
  • Why Not?: How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big And Small
  • The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics Can Teach Us about Innovation
  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques
  • Weird Ideas That Work: How to Build a Creative Company
  • What the Most Successful People Do at Work: A Short Guide to Making Over Your Career
  • The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?

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“The key is to take a larger project or goal and break it down into smaller problems to be solved, constraining the scope of work to solving a key problem, and then another key problem.
This strategy, of breaking a project down into discrete, relatively small problems to be resolved, is what Bing Gordon, a cofounder and the former chief creative officer of the video game company Electronic Arts, calls smallifying. Now a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, Gordon has deep experience leading and working with software development teams. He’s also currently on the board of directors of Amazon and Zynga. At Electronic Arts, Gordon found that when software teams worked on longer-term projects, they were inefficient and took unnecessary paths. However, when job tasks were broken down into particular problems to be solved, which were manageable and could be tackled within one or two weeks, developers were more creative and effective.”
“What is the purpose of education? Is it to impart knowledge and facts or is it to nurture curiosity, effortful problem solving, and the capacity for lifelong learning? Educational historians have repeatedly shown that today’s schools were designed during the first half of the twentieth century to meet the demands of the industrial era, not an innovative knowledge economy. “Very few schools teach students how to create knowledge,” says Professor Keith Sawyer of Washington University, a leading education and innovation researcher. “Instead, students are taught that knowledge is static and complete, and they become experts at consuming knowledge rather than producing knowledge.” This is unacceptable. Change” 1 likes
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