Little Bets

  • by Peter Sims
  • Narrated by John Allen Nelson
  • 5 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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? Best-selling 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.


What the Critics Say

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


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Customer Reviews

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This isn't a great audiobook. I am from the technology world, so the iterative/incremental approach that the author advocates here is not new to me. I was hoping for a bit more depth, but there are just a few stories about how you should approach things incrementally. I cannot recommend this book.

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- Daryl Kulak "The Holistic Business Guy"

Useful approach, not for everyone

The narrator is a little overenthusiastic, but the principles are sound. Peter Sims applies the idea of "little bets" to a wide variety of situations. Prime examples include Pixar, agile software development, and the military's Iraq counterinsurgency program. The basic idea is to make a series of "little bets" on test projects, aiming to "fail fast" and learn from the experience. Your overall direction will emerge organically from these experiments rather than being imposed top-down. The author considers this approach superior to trying to come up with a grand plan from the beginning. I tend to agree with him; in my own experience, which includes playwriting and software development, working this way is more congenial than the conventional way.

It's not for everyone, though. I can easily imagine Shakespeare and Homer approaching writing by making a series of "little bets," but I can't picture Dante pulling off "The Divine Comedy" this way. Still, it's worth a listen.
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- Tad Davis

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-08-2011
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio