"In this era of ever-accelerating change, being able to create, navigate amid uncertainty, and adapt using an experimental approach will increasingly be a vital advantage. The way to begin is with little bets."
– Peter Sims
I love this book.
One sentence book summary
You innovate to keep changing and improving by a constant series of ‘little bets’ – affordable experimental changes or mini pilots – taken at all levels of the organization: if you are not trying at least one new thing or new approach at any one time, then you will stay the same; maybe you’re ‘good’ already so play safe most of the time, but since ‘good’ is no longer good enough, you may look like you’re succeeding, but you are actually slowly slipping behind. (Wow, what a long sentence…)
Why this is so important
Fundamental to the little bets approach is knowing that you will get something wrong, learn why and improve it. It’s because it’s new that you don’t know if it will work. And you ‘learn by doing’ – smart business leaders call this ‘failing forwards‘ – It looks like failure but it teaches you something you didn’t know and teaches you how ‘it’ will work, and you then fix it and find you now have something no competitor has. You created it.
One paragraph on why you will think this is wrong compared with the way you are used to working
NONE of us are comfortable with this approach as it ‘ups’ what looks like our failure rate. We all want to be in charge of the unit or department or organization that rarely gets anything ‘wrong’ – the safe pair of hands.
That old-fashioned view of what success looks like just means you will stay in safe territory where you know how to do what you are doing. So, you will not progress fast enough. As Picasso said, he was always trying new things that he didn’t know how to do, in order to learn how to do them. That’s the only way we move forward.
Fundamental to the little bets approach is that you
- Experiment: Learn by doing. Fail quickly to learn fast. Develop experiments and prototypes to gather insights, identify problems, and build up to creative ideas, like Beethoven did in order to discover new musical styles and forms.
- Play: A playful, improvisational, and humorous atmospherequiets our inhibitions when ideas are incubating or newly hatched, and prevents creative ideas from being snuffed out or prematurely judged.
- Immerse: Take time to get out into the world to gather fresh ideas and insights, in order to understand deeper human motivations and desires, and absorb how things work from the ground up.
- Define: Use insights gathered throughout the process to define specific problems and needs before solving them, just as the Google founders did when they realized that their library search algorithm could address a much larger problem.
- Reorient: Be flexible in pursuit of larger goals and aspirations, making good use of small wins to make necessary pivots and chart the course to completion.
- Iterate: Repeat, refine, and test frequently armed with better insights, information, and assumptions as time goes on.
Great book. Busts the ‘innovation is only noticeable if it’s big innovation’ thinking and shows how to create a continuously innovating culture that improves – a continuous improvement ‘engine’ if you will.