Innovation book review: Little Bets by @petersims

Little Bets by Peter Sims

β€œThe side that learns and adapts the fastest often prevails.” – General David Petraeus

You can’t mess with evolution. That’s the message I got from the book Little Bets by Peter Sims.

If you are well versed with the state of current innovation thinking, you will find that the main ideas are heavily influenced by design thinking. This is not a recipe book for design thinking. There are no how to’s. It’s strength lies in it’s synthesis of the main principles of experimental innovation. Today, more commonly known as design thinking.

It’s a well written and engaging book. I read Little Bets in a little over 6 hours. It’s a short read but entertaining read.

What stands out about the book is the distinctive stories and characters Mr. Sims uses to illustrate the main ideas. For example, how Chris Rock tests new jokes in small venues with small audiences before taking them to bigger events. This helps him tests and refine jokes that he knows will resonate with audiences at bigger events. The story of how Pixar’s Toy Story begun from little bets. How the the success of the U.S. Military’s ‘Surge Strategy’ is influenced by Design Thinking.

All very entertaining stories that you would not think took such an approach to achieve their goals. Also, Mr. Sims practices what he preaches. He took the Little Bets approach when writing and pitching the book. Nice one!

As someone who lives experimentation, the ideas are not new. Making little bets is about doing little tests. Try something. Get feedback. Refine. Get more feedback. The creative process is a hands-on experiment.

With that said, if you are just getting your feet in the innovation door, you should definitely read this book. I can’t help suggesting that after you’ve finished reading it, read Disrupt by Luke Williams on how to put these principles into practice.


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  • Ralph Ohr

    Thanks for the brief and and meaningful review, Jorge!

    Just ordered the book upon your recommendation πŸ™‚

    Cheers, Ralph

    • Hi Ralph,

      That sounds great. I know you will find it engaging and entertaining πŸ˜‰



  • I like the term ‘experimental innovation’ better than the term ‘design thinking’. The former term seems to resonate with me more clearly in meaning.

    I would also like to put in this anecdote that seems relevant to me:
    This business of doing things in small, obvious and painless steps may sound silly, but it’s the key to a lot of very big things.

    “The Boiling Frog Phenomenon”

    It’s a psychological phenomenon that dates back to research
    conducted at Johns Hopkins University way back in 1882.

    Here’s how it works.

    Imagine you want to cook a frog …

    If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will
    jump out. But if you place a frog into a pot of lukewarm
    water and slowly turn up the heat, it will stay happily
    inside the pot … and before the frog realizes what is
    happening … you have frog soup.

    The human nervous system works much the same way.

    If you try to introduce a radical change in your life,
    your system fights back – much like the frog jumping out
    of the pot of boiling water.

    To create lasting change – you simply have to slowly turn
    up the heat …

    Over time, these tiny changes are almost imperceptible to
    your nervous system, but over time they add up to HUGE

    This is similar to the Japanese concept of “kaizen” whereby
    one makes small constant improvements that eventually add
    up and make a radical difference.
    = = = = = =

    My blog post in my blog on a similar topic: “Start with simple – simple is good”
    similar to how Chris Rocks tests out his jokes on small crowds first.

    My take is that ‘everything has to start somewhere’ so this ‘somewhere’ can be ‘good enough’

    • Hello Mohan,

      I agree. Your analogy hits home. I would add that it’s about creating momentum. Getting small wins, that build on top of each other, get people focused and emotionally engaged. Taking bigger leaps then happens within the flow of these small steps.

      I like your post, thanks for sharing πŸ™‚



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