I have a question: what does edgy comedian Chris Rock, animated movie powerhouse Pixar and Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon.com have in common? (I know that this sounds like the setup to a bad joke but just roll with me here!)
They all take “Little Bets”.
So what are they? “Little bets” are small, concrete low risk actions that are made to discover, develop and test ideas. Peter Sims believes that the most innovative, creative and successful artists, individuals and companies consistently use “little bets” to stay ahead of their fields and Sims provides the step-by-step playbook in which they make this happen.
Betting The Farm
When it comes to creativity and innovation, there are generally 2 assumptions:
1) The people who come up with the most creative and innovative ideas are just geniuses i.e Walt Disney, Prince or Steve Jobs
2) The great world changing ideas come to these people in a flash: fully formed, perfect and the superstar creative puts all his time, resources and energy (bets the farm) on this idea and becomes a gazillionaire.
Sims through extensive research and by doing in-depth interviews with 4-star generals, superstar entertainers and Silicon Valley pioneers disagrees. What Sims noticed is that although they operated in different fields, these pioneers used surprisingly similar approaches to coming up with great ideas and solutions using experimentation, being playful, looking at the project/problem from every angle and if something is not working, changing direction quickly or ‘pivoting’. Many chapters of the book cover one of these aspects in detail and at the end of each chapter, Sims provides concrete action steps that you can implement into your own projects.
How This Book Can Help You
For me this has been a great book. The number 1 take-away of this book has been what Sims calls “small wins”.
Sims explains that when most people want to start a new project or goal, they look at it from the wrong way around: they start off with this grand vision of what the end should look like i.e landing their first coding job or building a successful business and they plan all the steps that will get them there. But Sims believes that is a bad idea as with any detailed plan, things are likely to go wrong and there will be many external factors that will throw the plan off course. Most people at this point get frustrated and give up.
Sims argues that innovators instead of focusing on the ‘grand plan’ focus instead on “small wins” which are small , positive actionable steps that show them that they are going in the right direction. Sims used comedian Chris Rock as an example of this trait. Before Chris Rock embarks on a worldwide stadium tour or major hosting gig, Rock will many months before go to tiny, more intimate venues locally to test his material. Rock comes unannounced with has a rough outline of the subjects he wants to discuss on a legal pad: many of the jokes are half-baked and many “bomb” but when he does get a laugh, Rock watches intently, logging it down. After doing this dozens of times, Rock slowly builds and refines his act to the award-winning, box-office smashes that he’s known for.
The “small wins” concept has a lot in common with “The Slight Edge” where it focuses on small consistent actions rather than massive ones. At first when I signed up to the Teamtreehouse Tech Degree, I honestly believed that I would be able to become a proficient coder in 6 months – but things didn’t go to plan. I started to get frustrated and wondered whether coding was for me. But remembering this lesson, I started to focus on the “small wins” like understanding loops or functions rather than landing that coveted job. The “small wins” focus made my learning less frustrating and increased my confidence that I was improving and nearing my goal.
I loved this book but the only downside was that it could be a little wordy in places and towards the end it got a little repetitive – but don’t let that stop you! This is a must-buy!
Final score is 7.5 out of 10
Thank you for reading! As always let me know what you think by leaving your comments below or tweeting at me via @karlwebdev.
See you next Thursday!