I just finished Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, by Peter Sims. It’s a wonderful book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is curious about why some people, businesses and ideas succeed and others don’t. Sims’ theory is that taking small, methodical steps, failing often, embracing failure and then making necessary corrections has allowed successful individuals and organizations to reap unintended windfalls and achieve extroardinary outcomes.
One of the many examples Sims uses throughout the book is Chris Rock. His stand-up specials are sharp, Sims writes, because months before you see him on TV Rock goes to small clubs on weeknights and fails repeatedly in search of material that resonates. Little Bets is built on the premise that genius insights don’t spring into people’s minds fully formed. They emerge through a rigorous experimental discovery process. That’s what Rock does when he goes on stage knowing people will laugh at him, not with him.
The book also delves into the methods used by Steve Jobs, John Lasseter, Jeff Bezos, Howard Schultz and others, whose approaches Sims summarizes thusly: “This brings us back to the fundamental advantages of the little bets approach; it allows us to discover new ideas, strategies, or plans through an emergent process, rather than trying to fully formulate them before we begin, and it facilitates adapting our approach as we go rather than continuing on a course that may lead to failure … chance favors the open mind, receptivity to what cannot be predicted or imagined based on existing knowledge. With the barriers lowered, the creative mind thrives on continuous experimentation and discovery.”
Little Bets is one of those books you read and go, “I knew this already,” and then you kick yourself because you never acted on this insight while people who are millions and billions of dollars richer than you did.