Do you ever take little bets on yourself? What does taking little bets really mean? Do you take consistent small actions? Or are you someone who waits to take one big action? Little Bets by Peter Sims is about taking small actions, and consistently testing them.
Below, you’ll find my thoughts about Little Bets by Peter Sims. It’s definitely a book worth reading!
Initial Thoughts on Little Bets by Peter Sims
In Little Bets by Peter Sims, the author draws on a lot of research for taking consistent, small actions, instead of waiting for perfect timing or a well-laid out plan. It supports the idea of failing fast, and learning from the failure.
“Little bets allow us to discover new ideas, strategies, or plans, through an emergent process, rather than trying to formulate them before we begin, and it facilitates adapting our approach as we go rather than continuing on a course that may lead to the future…. They also allow us to test and develop ideas that are achievable and affordable.”
Related: Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone
Contrary to what some people say, great ideas do not come to you fully formed, you have to work to develop the idea. This is similar to what’s in How to Fly a Horse by Kevin Ashton,
“Nothing good is created the first time…. Creators must be willing to fail and repeat until they find the steps that arrives.”
Take comedian Chris Rock, who is highly successful at his craft, one would think that developing a routine is a cinch. Not so, it takes six months to a year to get his act to a point that he is ready to perform before a much larger audience. Chris Rock often tests his material in front of a small audience at Stress factory, a small comedy club that’s close to his home in New Jersey.
“Most people are surprised that someone who has reached Chris Rock’s level of success still puts himself out there in this way, willing to fail night after night, but Rock deeply understands that ingenious ideas almost never spring into people’s minds fully formed; they emerge through a rigorous experimental discovery process.”
Little Bets by Peter Sims: Definition of Little Bets
So, what are little bets? According to the author, “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.”
2 Basic Types of Innovators
There are two types of basic innovators: Conceptual Innovators and Experimental Innovators.
- Conceptual Innovators: These types of creators usually pursue bold ideas and often achieve their greatest breakthroughs early in life. An example of a conceptual innovator is Mozart.
- Experimental Innovators: Most creators would fall into this category. They use experimental, iterative, trial-and-error approaches to gradually build up to their breakthroughs. Examples include Chris Rock and Jeff Bezos.
- Experiment: Kinesthetic learner – 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 to discover new musical styles and forms. It’s essentially doing different things to see what works – the process of elimination.
- Play: A playful, improvisational, and humorous atmosphere that quiets our inhibitions when ideas are incubating or newly hatched, and prevents creative ideas from being snuffed out or prematurely judged. It’s stepping outside your comfort zone and having fun. It’s about being as playful like a child.
- Immerse: Take time to get out into the world to gather fresh ideas and insights to understand deeper human motivations and desires, and absorb how things work from the ground up. There is so much going on around us, if we only stop to see.
- 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. What can your insights tell you about the project you are working on? Can they address a 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. Initial results of your experiments may tell you that you need to go in a different direction.
- Iterate: Repeat, refine, and test frequently armed with better insights, information, and assumptions as time goes on, as Chris Rock does to perfect his act. Version 1.0 has been never perfect, so you have to test, then refine, and keep on doing that until you get to where you want to be.
Further Reading: Over 25 Bookish Quotes and Ideas to Inspire You
Big Lessons in Little Bets by Peter Sims
- Instead of thinking, “What will I gain, think what will I lose?” This is very important, because when you are thinking about what you can gain, you are singularly focused and will miss opportunities along the way. People are scared of losing what they have, so it’s a great motivating factor. When you think about what you will likely lose if you fail, you work harder and are more open to trying a variety of approaches.
- Mistake and Failures Are Opportunities to Learn and Grow: Inventor, Thomas Edison, made 10,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. He didn’t really think they were failures, those unsuccessful attempts allowed him to eliminate what didn’t work. It was feedback for him. Chris Rock tests his material at a small comedy club where he can gauge people’s responses to his jokes. The audience, though small, is comprised of super fans, so he will learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s a tough audience.
- Have a Growth Mindset: The most successful creators have a growth mindset. This means they know that with practice, their abilities and intelligence can grow. They see failures, challenges, and setbacks as opportunities to learn and grow. They are constantly stretching themselves.
- Healthy Perfectionism Outlook: They know that perfectionism doesn’t exist, they strive for excellence, but doesn’t allow that to paralyze the creative process. They hold others to the same standards that they hold themselves. They plan ahead, have excellent organization skills, and are driven by personal values. On the other hand, people who have an Unhealthy Perfectionism Outlook, need approval, are driven by external factors, constantly worry about making mistakes and are always looking at past performance. These attitudes tend to hold them back.
- Create an Atmosphere of Playfulness and Improvisation: This is one of the best ways to discover breakthrough ideas and insights. You are open to trying new things because this approach inspires experimentation.
- Participate in the Process of Discovery: Explore, observe and listen to uncover what is hidden from the naked eye from the bottom up. Learn a little from a lot of people. Be open to new information and ideas from an extremely diverse group of people.
- Incorporate Little Bets into Your Projects and Routines: This allows you to discover new ideas, strategies, or plans, through an emergent process, instead of trying to fully formulate them before you begin the process. Seek out active users, your super fans, to test your ideas by showing them your work in progress to see how they react. When your project or routine is close to completion, test with a wider audience. When you take little bets, and accept that you will experience failure along the way, you open up yourself to opportunities to try new things and pivot during the creative process.
Final Thoughts on Little Bets by Peter Sims
I really enjoyed reading Little Bets by Peter Sims and I highly recommend that you read it. You will get lots of practical ideas that you can immediately apply. It reminds me that it’s important to implement and test, implement and test. It’s an iterative process. Do not wait till you have it all figured out before you take action.
Update: First Published February 2016