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Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries [Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged] [MP3 CD]

Peter Sims , John Allen Nelson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 9 2011
What do Apple CEO Steve Jobs, comedian Chris Rock, prizewinning 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 two hundred 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 calculator; 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.

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Review

"Diverse and uplifting---a veritable gumball machine of memorable anecdotes to inspire creativity." ---Kirkus

About the Author

Peter Sims is a speaker, entrepreneur, and the coauthor of the Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek bestselling book True North.

John Allen Nelson's critically acclaimed roles on television's 24 and Vanished are among the highlights of his twenty-five-plus years as an actor, screenwriter, and film producer. As a narrator, he won an AudioFile Earphones Award for his reading of Zoo Story by Thomas French.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Having read and reviewed True North, a book Peter Sims co-authored with Bill George, I was curious to know what he has to say about "how breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries." I was pleased but hardly surprised that Sims has a great deal of value to share, much of it (as he duly acknowledges) gained from conversations with or rigorous study of various thought leaders and they include a few surprises. Chris Rock, for example. His routines are the result of an exhausting process of continuous (mostly failed) experiments, constant modification, and subtle refinement. Other experimental innovators and thought leaders include Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin (co-founders of Google), Saras Sarasvathy, Pixar's Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, Chet Pipkin, Frank Gehry, Bing Gordon, U.S. Army Brigadier General H.R. McMaster, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Steve Jobs, Jeffrey Dyer and Hal Gregersen, Richard Wiseman, and Eric von Hippel.

As Sims explains, his book's proposition is based on an experimental approach that involves a lot of little bets and certain creative methods to identify possibilities and build up to great outcomes eventually, after frequent failures. (Actually, experimental innovation has no failures; rather, there are initiatives that have not as yet succeeded, each of which is a precious learning opportunity.) "At the core of this experimental approach, little bets are concrete actions taken to discover, test, and develop ideas that are achievable and affordable. They begin as creative possibilities that get iterated and refined over time, and they are particularly valuable when trying to navigate amid uncertainty, create something new, or attend to open-ended problems.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fresh new look on incremental innovation Oct. 22 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I really truly recommend this book for anyone in any position of leadership or entrepreneurship. At first glance the concepts seem focused at product creators and small business owners however I think there are takeaways for anyone in any field. The idea of betting small, failing fast and learning little bits from lots of people are amazing concepts that apply to life so much of life.

I found all of the studies cited incredibly informative. Especially the one on how people perceive luck and the micro-loan nobel prize winner. Little bets is not a step by step methodology on any specific task or working field. It is a philosophy to be used as an approach to many tasks in life and especially product creation. It can be compared closely to the different between Waterfall development and Agile development. It then extends further into making all innovation, management, marketing more agile.

Will definitely be purchasing copies for colleagues and friends.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  103 reviews
60 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Anecdotes but Nothing Groundbreaking June 17 2011
By Blake Henderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book has some interesting anecdotal stuff. I especially liked the stories on Pixar, and the creative process as it relates to learning in young children.

That said, most of the time when I flipped the page and saw the referenced person - Muhammad Yunnus, General McMaster, or Malcolm Gladwell - as I reader of Tom Ricks' Fiasco, Banker to the Poor, The Tipping Point, and books on Lean Start-Up and Customer Development, I already knew where the author was headed and was left underwhelmed.

I'm not usually moved to review books on Amazon, however, I honestly believe the book is overrated as it stands with a lot of four and five star reviews. The book has a great title that certainly drew me in, yet I didn't find anything groundbreaking inside.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great lesson for risk takers April 19 2011
By Benjamin P. Foss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
_Little Bets_ by Peter Sims is an excellent read. As someone who led a product design team at Intel, has a handful of U.S. patents and has dabbled in film making, I can tell you these insights play well across industry. I recommend it highly to anyone interested in tapping into the design revolution to improve their work and help change the world.

I often measure content I consume according to how much I think about it the next day. This book left me with a number of outstanding insights that I apply consistently.

Sims explains that when it comes to getting great work out of people be the student a coworker or yourself, the key seems to be to praise people for *effort* that they put in rather than merely praising them for their outcomes. It seems silly given that context to say that this book achieves great things but it does!

The book is well researched, and draws from a number of different fields. While many business books focus solely on one industry or one school of thought, Sims draws from an incredibly diverse palette to establish some consistent themes. We hear stories from comedians, military leaders, filmmakers, architects, and even a few entrepreneurs.

The key insight from this book is to treat life is an experiment where failure teaches as much a success. If you can scale your bets to the right size (a.k.a. little) is show that failures are less painful and allow course corrections. You can then place larger bets on things that will be successful. Trust me on this little bet -- buy the book.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to generate "ingenious ideas...through a rigorous experimental discovery process" April 20 2011
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Having read and reviewed True North, a book Peter Sims co-authored with Bill George, I was curious to know what he has to say about "how breakthrough ideas emerge from small discoveries." I was pleased but hardly surprised that Sims has a great deal of value to share, much of it (as he duly acknowledges) gained from conversations with or rigorous study of various thought leaders and they include a few surprises. Chris Rock, for example. His routines are the result of an exhausting process of continuous (mostly failed) experiments, constant modification, and subtle refinement. Other experimental innovators and thought leaders include Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin (co-founders of Google), Saras Sarasvathy, Pixar's Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, Chet Pipkin, Frank Gehry, Bing Gordon, U.S. Army Brigadier General H.R. McMaster, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Steve Jobs, Jeffrey Dyer and Hal Gregersen, Richard Wiseman, and Eric von Hippel.

As Sims explains, his book's proposition is based on an experimental approach that involves a lot of little bets and certain creative methods to identify possibilities and build up to great outcomes eventually, after frequent failures. (Actually, experimental innovation has no failures; rather, there are initiatives that have not as yet succeeded, each of which is a precious learning opportunity.) "At the core of this experimental approach, little bets are concrete actions taken to discover, test, and develop ideas that are achievable and affordable. They begin as creative possibilities that get iterated and refined over time, and they are particularly valuable when trying to navigate amid uncertainty, create something new, or attend to open-ended problems."

Constant experimentation ("learn by doing") is fundamental to this approach, as indicated, as are a playful, improvisational, and humorous environment; immersion in unfamiliar situations, localities, circumstances, etc.; definition of specific questions to answer, specific problems to solve, specific objectives to achieve, etc.; flexibility amidst ambiguity and uncertainty in combination with a willingness to accept reorientation; and, as indicated, constant iteration (reiteration?) to test, evaluate, refine, test again, etc. Those who are curious wish to understand what works. Experimental innovators have an insatiable curiosity to know what works (or doesn't), why it works (or doesn't), and how it can be improved.

It is important to understand that, as Sims explains, "we can't plot a series of small wins in advance, we must use experiments in order for them to emerge." That is, conduct lots (I mean LOTS) of small experiments (betting small amounts of hours and dollars) and then, as small (modest) "wins" occur, increase the "bet" and see what happens...or doesn't. This process is iterative and never ends. The fundamental advantages are obvious. It allows people to discover new whatevers through an emergent, organic process of frugal but sufficient investments, and, it allows for all manner of adjustments (course corrections, additions/deletions, increases/reductions, etc.) at any point throughout the process.

If your organization is in need of breakthrough ideas, why don't you provide them? Peter Sims provides in this book just about everything you need to know to understand the process and what must be done to initiate and then sustain it. However, the discoveries cannot be made until the experiments occur. If not you, who? If not now, when?
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not much of a book Nov. 10 2011
By D. Chandler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The idea is great; little bets are a great way to go. But there just isn't enough here for a book, and the examples given are repetitive and frequently struggling and stretching to be on-point. It reminds me of a high school essay where you hadn't done much research, but still had to produce the 10 page term paper.

It seems like the publisher noticed the book was a bit light, so they've added page after page of notes, references, resources to explore, etc; nearly 30% of the book is puff. Frankly, you could go to the author's Q&A page on Amazon, read the interview, and have all the ideas and value of the book for 5 minutes reading, and $0. Save your time and your money on this one.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best busines books I've read April 14 2011
By Daniel Jaffe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book is easily one of the top-10 business books I've read. But it's about more than just business. The bets that Peter Sims talks about reach across every aspect of life, from business, to art, to child-rearing.

Making little bets is about doing little tests. Try something. Get feedback. Refine. Get more feedback. The creative process is a hands-on experiment. Lasting, reproducible success comes from small corrections over time. The feedback you get from making little bets leads to the best outcomes... the ones you didn't and couldn't predict.

I was fortunate to get my hands on an advance proof of "Little Bets" and was hooked from the introduction. Having been a courtroom criminal defense lawyer for more than a decade, having built and sold a successful tech company, and now working on my second tech start-up, this book spoke to me. Although I didn't know what to call it at the time, my successes in the courtroom and in business came from taking a little bets approach.

If you are creative (especially if you work in corporate America), this book will probably solidify what you already know in your heart and give you the tools, confidence and case-studies to challenge the status quo. If you manage creative people, you can't afford to overlook this remarkable book. And if you're a parent, or teacher, or coach, or community leader, this book will give you tools that will make a world of difference to those who look up to you.

Do yourself a favor. Order this book now.
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