Title: Little Bets – How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries 
Author: Peter Sims
Publisher: Free Press (April 19, 2011)
Cover Price: $28.99 Disclaimer: Clicking the cover graphic or the book title will link you to Amazon.ca through our Associate account. Purchasing the book through this link will help us earn money for the site.
I picked this book up on our way home from Merging Media 2011  in Vancouver, having heard one of the speakers recommend it during his presentation. Through the wonders of the internet and cell phone technology, I was able to ascertain that our local Chapters outlet had one copy, and called ahead to have it held for me. While agile development principles will not be new to many of you – and truth be told, they aren’t really new to me either, I’ve heard them spoken of at many industry seminars, the way the author ties those principles in with ideas from other sources seemed to stick with me better, for some reason.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been wrestling with our own new project for months now, and the thought of breaking it into incremental development didn’t really occur to me – it was just this monumental project with many components that would theoretically fit together nicely in my vision of what I wanted to accomplish.
After reading Little Bets and getting a look at project development across industries and disciplines, I now realize that I was approaching our project all wrong – it needs to be broken up with each area visited and re-visited until I can achieve (hopefully) what I originally set out to do.
One of the measures I use for a book’s importance to me is the number of researchable resources it offers. Peter Sims has included a categorized appendix full of further resources, many of which he covered in the text of his book, explaining their relevance to his topic and solving one more piece of the puzzle in how to develop a successful business model, service or product. It was also validating to see that some of the books Mr. Sims recommends were already on my office shelf, which tells me that I am on the right track as far as gathering knowledge goes.
Other reviews of Little Bets have been somewhat negative, stating that it contains nothing new, or that it only applies to the highly intelligent with big budgets. I don’t feel that way. I found Little Bets to be encouraging, offering me the chance to reflect on what it is I personally am trying to do, and that tells me that this book was worth the purchase price and time it took me to read it.
Sometimes all it takes is reading a lot of similar material that is presented in different ways with viable examples of products and companies many of us can relate to, and as a habitual reader and researcher of topics, I believe that Little Bets may have unwittingly become my tipping point in moving forward.
Also encouraging is the fact that the small team I’ve been working with thus far on the new project is comprised of people from different career backgrounds, and we can sit around a table tossing around ideas and suggestions without fear of belittlement, so in that way we had already achieved one portion of the successful creative team. Again, validation that we are moving in the right direction, albeit quite slowly. However, as I’ve said to Scott a few times – I would rather move ahead slowly and get this project mostly right than toss the whole thing onto the internet only to have it fall apart in one massive mess.
While no book can truly provide all of the answers for any given project or situation, Little Bets gives the reader plenty to think about – everything from how we think about projects and problems to how we educate our children and encourage them to become free-thinkers and creative problem finders.
Peter Sims draws examples from university professors who have conducted years of research into the practice of understanding innovative methods and the creative process, such as Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on the concept of Flow. The author also presents research from Dr. Carol Dweck, a Professor of Social Psychology at Stanford University, whose work revolves around human mind-sets.
Pixar, Toyota, Hewlett-Packard, architect Frank Gehry, the US Military as well as Proctor & Gamble are but a few of the examples presented in Little Bets of how changing thought processes and behaviours worked for them, aiding in finding the creative processes that pushed ideas forward.
Little Bets is by no means a research paper with footnotes to support its theory; it is a business knowledge book designed to offer the reader a path to new thinking and new ways to solve problems he or she may be facing. It is a look at how different people approach and solve different problems. It’s about processes that work for them, how they might work for you, and it’s about changing your own thinking processes to break down barriers that may have been blocking your path – turning your little bets into small wins that will eventually transform into big success.
If you are looking for suggestions on how to get around these barriers in your own project, I highly recommend Little Bets – it is decently light reading with lots of informative sign posts to help you along on your journey.