Little Bets

Little Bets

How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries

Book - 2011
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What do Apple CEO Steve Jobs, comedian Chris Rock, prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, the story developers at Pixar films, and the Army Chief of Strategic Plans all have in common? Bestselling author Peter Sims found that all of them have achieved breakthrough results by methodically taking small, experimental steps in order to discover and develop new ideas. Rather than believing they have to start with a big idea or plan a whole project out in advance, trying to foresee the final outcome, they make a series of little bets about what might be a good direction, learning from lots of little failures and from small but highly significant wins that allow them to happen upon unexpected avenues and arrive at extraordinary outcomes.
Based on deep and extensive research, including more than 200 interviews with leading innovators, Sims discovered that productive, creative thinkers and doers--from Ludwig van Beethoven to Thomas Edison and Amazon's Jeff Bezos--practice a key set of simple but ingenious experimental methods--such as failing quickly to learn fast, tapping into the genius of play, and engaging in highly immersed observation--that free their minds, opening them up to making unexpected connections and perceiving invaluable insights. These methods also unshackle them from the constraints of overly analytical thinking and linear problem solving that our education places so much emphasis on, as well as from the fear of failure, all of which thwart so many of us in trying to be more innovative.
Reporting on a fascinating range of research, from the psychology of creative blocks to the influential Silicon Valley-based field of design thinking, Sims offers engaging and wonderfully illuminating accounts of breakthrough innovators at work, including how Hewlett-Packard stumbled onto the breakaway success of the first hand-held calculat∨ the remarkable storyboarding process at Pixar films that has been the key to their unbroken streak of box office successes; the playful discovery process by which Frank Gehry arrived at his critically acclaimed design for Disney Hall; the aha revelation that led Amazon to pursue its wildly successful affiliates program; and the U.S. Army's ingenious approach to counterinsurgency operations that led to the dramatic turnaround in Iraq.
Fast paced and as entertaining as it is illuminating, Little Bets offers a whole new way of thinking about how to break away from the narrow strictures of the methods of analyzing and problem solving we were all taught in school and unleash our untapped creative powers.
Publisher: New York ; Toronto : Free Press, c2011.
Edition: 1st Free Press hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9781439170427
Branch Call Number: 658. 409 SIM
Characteristics: vii, 213 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.


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Feb 23, 2020

I liked the theme of this book very much! The book is divided into, in my opinion, themes and basic principles that lead to success in business and innovation, and then mounts tons of real life examples to justify them. I'd call it a near-perfect blend of "theory-example", 'near' only because the examples given are quite repetitive.

Without spoiling much, I'd summarize the themes mentioned in the book are - how a plethora of eventual gigantic products initially started out of little experimentation that were backed by experimental-minded leaders; how being ambitious is okay, but at the same time why it's important to graciously learn from an over-ambitious project; how diversity in thoughts helps drive innovation and consequently, success; how successful people are mostly the people with exceptional perseverance etc.

But what is more captivating is the examples and real life stories that are given to build upon the above mentioned themes. Chris Rock is a recurring character, virtually being mentioned in all the ten chapters, and rightly so. I learned a lot about his personal journey overcoming all the obstacles to become who he is now. 

Even more enthralling are the stories related to the evolution of Pixar, the highly innovative mountain bikers that made the first mountain bikes by making a series of modifications to regular bikes, the story of 3M, Belkin etc. I was so impressed by some of these stories that I literally watched two documentaries - The Pixar Story and The Klunzers (the latter about the mountain bikers) after reading this book, just to savor them more. P&G's legendary CEO A.G. Lafley's efforts in promoting creativity at P&G is yet another engrossing tale of paving the way for the impossible. The book also does highlight the necessity of social-innovation, and rightly takes the example and evolution of Grameen Bank, which is a simple, yet highly effective idea that was instrumental in helping small business and poorest of the poor of India and Bangladesh in achieving financial freedom. 

Incidentally, one of the best sections of the book is the "Further Reading" section at the end of the book, which lists some of the mind-blowing books written on the lines of innovation, ideas, and breakthroughs, and many of them are certainly going into my to-read list, starting with Scott Belsky's Making Ideas Happen. But before that, a huge kudos to the author Peter Sims for this book. 

 -- Anoop Dixith

Nov 24, 2017

I enjoyed this book and found it inspiring that there are people out in the world who see their world in a way that changes our world.

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