Book Review: Little Bets

August 9, 2011 4 Comments

I purchased and read “Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries” by Peter Sims because Bob Sutton gave it a glowing review at his website. As usual, Bob was right. I did not love it as much as Bob, but I liked it enough to recommend it to you.

The main point of the book is the power of experimental innovation. Experimental innovators don’t begin with a few big brilliant ideas. Instead, they discover what they should do via a series of “little bets” and small wins.

Learning by doing and having fun in the process are cornerstones of the experimental innovation process. This is nothing new. But he also highlights the importance of immersion, which I think people would be wise to pay a lot more attention to:

Take the 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. (p. 14).

When you understand why people do the things they do you have the ability to create unique solutions that force others to try to copy what you are doing. If you don’t understand how and why things work, the best you can ever hope to achieve is strategic parity.

I don’t normally like business books with lots of stories, and this one has lots of stories. But Sims does a very good job of telling a few interesting stories that support his main points quite well. I loved his story in Chapter 6 of how Muhammad Yunus immersed himself in the problem of poverty in Bangladesh and ultimately formulated the microfinance solution.

By absorbing poverty from the worm’s eye view, asking lots of questions, and being open to changing his assumptions, Yunus could understand what he could not from a bird’s eye view. (p. 102).

If you have entrepreneurial aspirations, you should read this book. Even if you don’t think you want to be an entrepreneur someday, if your success as a leader requires enabling your people to continually produce creative insights and innovative solutions, I’m betting you will find this book worth your time.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Art Petty says:

    Bret, thanks for your great book reviews! This one has been on my radar screen for awhile and you’ve pushed me over the top. Look forward to the read.

    -Art

    [Reply]

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Let me know what you think when you are done with it, Art. And thanks for catching the typo on my initial blog title. You can give a guy an advanced degree, but you can’t teach him how to spell. Thanks! Bret

    [Reply]

  2. Rick Henvey says:

    Just got this book and found your review of great value. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Rick. I’m reading an even better one right now called The Progress Principle. Similar concept. Plan to blog on it soon. Thanks! Bret

    [Reply]

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