Derek Sivers

Little Bets - by Peter Sims

Little Bets - by Peter Sims

ISBN: 1439170428
Date read: 2011-05-10
How strongly I recommend it: 4/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Examples of the fact that much success or creativity comes from trying many things, failing fast, getting feedback, trying more things, and deliberate practice. Stories from Pixar, Chris Rock, Silicon Valley, Frank Gehry.

my notes

Chris Rock: He watches the audience intently, noticing heads nodding, shifting body language, or attentive pauses, all clues as to where good ideas might reside.

Ingenious ideas almost never spring into people’s minds fully formed; they emerge through a rigorous experimental discovery process.

Amazon’s strategy of developing ideas in new markets to “planting seeds” or “going down blind alleys.” They learn and uncover opportunities as they go. Many efforts turn out to be dead ends, Bezos has said, “But every once in a while, you go down an alley and it opens up into this huge, broad avenue.” Like Chris Rock, Bezos has accepted uncertainty; he knows that he cannot reliably predict which ideas for new markets will work and which won’t. He’s got to experiment.

People who approach problems in a nonlinear manner using little bets.

Experimental innovators.

Little bets are concrete actions taken to discover, test, and develop ideas that are achievable and affordable. They begin as creative possibilities that get iterated and refined over time.

When we can’t know what’s going to happen, little bets help us learn about the factors that can’t be understood beforehand.

Fascinating research by Saras Sarasvathy, titled “What Makes Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurial.”

Design thinking provides a set of creative methodologies for solving problems and generating ideas that is based on building up solutions, rather than starting with the answer.

Fundamental to the little bets approach is that we:
• EXPERIMENT: Learn by doing. Fail quickly to learn fast. Develop experiments and prototypes to gather insights, identify problems, and build up to creative ideas, like Beethoven did in order to discover new musical styles and forms.
• PLAY: A playful, improvisational, and humorous atmosphere quiets our inhibitions when ideas are incubating or newly hatched, and prevents creative ideas from being snuffed out or prematurely judged.
• IMMERSE: Take time to get out into the world to gather fresh ideas and insights, in order to understand deeper human motivations and desires, and absorb how things work from the ground up.
• DEFINE: Use insights gathered throughout the process to define specific problems and needs before solving them, just as the Google founders did when they realized that their library search algorithm could address a much larger problem.
• REORIENT: Be flexible in pursuit of larger goals and aspirations, making good use of small wins to make necessary pivots and chart the course to completion.
• ITERATE: Repeat, refine, and test frequently armed with better insights, information, and assumptions as time goes on.

HP got most of its ideas for new products by informally observing or talking with customers to identify problems and needs.

You have to catch people making mistakes and make it so that it’s cool. You have to make it undesirable to play it safe.

Failure, in the form of making mistakes or errors, and being imperfect is essential to their success. It’s not that they intentionally try to fail, but rather that they know that they will make important discoveries by being willing to be imperfect, especially at the initial stages of developing their ideas. An essential part of the Silicon Valley ethos is that the culture there embraces a willingness to fail in order to learn what to do.

Success hides problems.

Constantly identify and solve new problems.

He talks about the problems that Pixar has encountered and the mistakes that he has made.

Healthy insecurity is the same phrase Gehry uses to describe how he feels when he begins each new project. “I’m always scared that I’m not going to know what to do,” Gehry says. “It’s a terrifying moment. And then when I start, I’m always amazed: ‘Oh, that wasn’t so bad.’”

Characteristics of what psychologists view as healthy perfectionism include striving for excellence and holding others to similar standards, planning ahead, and strong organizational skills.

Healthy perfectionism is internally driven in the sense that it’s motivated by strong personal values for things like quality and excellence.

Conversely, unhealthy perfectionism is externally driven. External concerns show up over perceived parental pressures, needing approval, a tendency to ruminate over past performances, or an intense worry about making mistakes.

Healthy perfectionists exhibit a low concern for these outside factors.

Be wrong as fast as we can. We’re gonna screw up, let’s just admit that. Let’s not be afraid of that. But let’s do it as fast as we can so we can get to the answer.

Write really, really shitty first drafts. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.

“Let’s look at it for a while,” Gehry says, “and be irritated by it.”

Prototyping can be somewhat counterintuitive, placing the emphasis on doing to be able to think rather than thinking in order to do.

We are more likely to experience flow when we do work that appeals to our intrinsic interests that’s also aligned with our personal strengths.

When software teams worked on longer-term projects, they were inefficient and took unnecessary paths. However, when job tasks were broken down into particular problems to be solved, which were manageable and could be tackled within one or two weeks, developers were more creative and effective. The practice of smallifying problems.

Steve Jobs is known to say, “People don’t know what they want if they haven’t seen it.”

One of the great benefits of the agile approach is that it is also a good method for failing fast. If you can launch ten features in the same time it takes a competitor to launch one, you’ll have ten times the amount of experience to draw from in figuring out what has failed the test of customer acceptance and what has succeeded.

Questions are the new answers

Ahe worm’s-eye view: “When you hold the world in your palm and inspect it only from a bird’s-eye view, you tend to become arrogant— you do not realize that things get blurred when seen from an enormous distance.”

Get out into the world to challenge their own assumptions, says, “No facts exist inside the building, only opinions.”

Steve Jobs: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people … Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective.”

The observational methods of anthropology are infiltrating the corporate world.

People too often have a tendency to think that certain people, experts or mentors for example, have all the answers when in reality insight is far more dispersed.

Lucky people pay more attention to what’s going on around them than unlucky people.

Lucky people tend to be open to opportunities (or insights) that come along spontaneously, whereas unlucky people tend to be creatures of routine, fixated on certain specific outcomes.

At social parties, for example, unlucky people tended to talk with the same types of people, people who are like themselves. It’s a common phenomenon. On the other hand, lucky people tended to be curious and open to what can come along from chance interactions.

Lucky people are effective at building secure, and longlasting, attachments with the people they meet. They are easy to know and most people like them. They tend to be trusting and form close relationships with others. As a result, they often keep in touch with a much larger number of friends and colleagues than unlucky people. And time and again, this network of friends helps promote opportunity in their lives.

Lucky people increase their odds of chance encounters or experiences by interacting with a large number of people.

(Business school?) : What you know, they’ll never know, and what they know, you can learn.

Extreme users, whose unique needs can foreshadow the needs of other people. The reason why designers find extreme users so valuable is because the average person isn’t actively thinking about solving problems like these. Their needs and desires are less pronounced.

Choose a few consumers that you really feel are the early adopters, test it with them, see what they like about it and what they don’t like about it … And, if it appeals to them, use them to optimize it [the idea] further and then the laggards will follow.

Active users are rare, but they sit at the top of pyramids of other people who are working to solve similar problems.

Schultz believed they should just say yes to customer requests. So, for example, Schultz was initially determined to avoid using nonfat milk since he didn’t think it tasted as good as regular milk and because it was at odds with the Italian coffee experience. When customers kept requesting nonfat drinks, Schultz relented. The success of those drinks became an important small win and soon much more: nonfat milk would grow to account for almost half of Starbucks’s lattes and cappuccinos.