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Publisher's Summary

What do Apple CEO Steve Jobs, comedian Chris Rock, prize-winning architect Frank Gehry, the story developers at Pixar films, and the Army Chief of Strategic Plans all have in common? Best-selling author Peter Sims found that all of them have achieved breakthrough results by methodically taking small, experimental steps in order to discover and develop new ideas.

Rather than believing they have to start with a big idea or plan a whole project out in advance, trying to foresee the final outcome, they make a series of little bets about what might be a good direction, learning from lots of little failures and from small but highly significant wins that allow them to happen upon unexpected avenues and arrive at extraordinary outcomes.

Based on deep and extensive research, including more than 200 interviews with leading innovators, Sims discovered that productive, creative thinkers and doers---from Ludwig van Beethoven to Thomas Edison and Amazon's Jeff Bezos---practice a key set of simple but ingenious experimental methods, such as failing quickly to learn fast, tapping into the genius of play, and engaging in highly immersed observation, that free their minds, opening them up to making unexpected connections and perceiving invaluable insights. These methods also unshackle them from the constraints of overly analytical thinking and linear problem solving that our education places so much emphasis on, as well as from the fear of failure, all of which thwart so many of us in trying to be more innovative.

©2011 Peter Sims (P)2011 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Diverse and uplifting---a veritable gumball machine of memorable anecdotes to inspire creativity." (Kirkus)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall

Useful approach, not for everyone

The narrator is a little overenthusiastic, but the principles are sound. Peter Sims applies the idea of "little bets" to a wide variety of situations. Prime examples include Pixar, agile software development, and the military's Iraq counterinsurgency program. The basic idea is to make a series of "little bets" on test projects, aiming to "fail fast" and learn from the experience. Your overall direction will emerge organically from these experiments rather than being imposed top-down. The author considers this approach superior to trying to come up with a grand plan from the beginning. I tend to agree with him; in my own experience, which includes playwriting and software development, working this way is more congenial than the conventional way.

It's not for everyone, though. I can easily imagine Shakespeare and Homer approaching writing by making a series of "little bets," but I can't picture Dante pulling off "The Divine Comedy" this way. Still, it's worth a listen.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Heard it all Before

Any additional comments?

This isn't a great audiobook. I am from the technology world, so the iterative/incremental approach that the author advocates here is not new to me. I was hoping for a bit more depth, but there are just a few stories about how you should approach things incrementally. I cannot recommend this book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Succinctly Summarizes Design Thinking for Business

> Clearly states key design thinking principles.
> Provides clarifying/amplifying examples from innovative and successful companies.
> Refers to other thinkers on design thinking.

Well written and well read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Andy
  • Westport, CT, United States
  • 08-14-11

well paced, good examples of techniqes in action

Pretty quick listen of the key success factors involved getting a win in the marketplace. Solid narration.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Informative, but repetitive

Enjoyed Little Bets... Solid insight, but I repetitive as you get further along in the book. “Chris Rock, Chris Rock, Chris Rock”

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Generic

Unfortunately, this is a rather generic read - citing the successes the Bezos and Jobs like far too many books do when content is not compelling. It also summarizes other works many have read, such as Creative INC. I'd recommend just buying that book instead.

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Wonderful insight

This book is amazing. I'm surprised that I hadn't heard about it before. Once you listen to it, its central idea seems quite logical but for some reason people don't think like that. Highly recommend it.

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Worth listening to, but won't change your life

This is one of those books that picks 4-5 case studies (Chris Rock, Pixar, HP, etc) and then uses them throughout the book to illustrate various related points. There's not much deep analysis, but some of the stories are interesting. If you're someone who can use a little insight to think deeper in your own context, you'll get something out of this. If you're just interested in what's being read to you, it's average material.

I noticed the narrator pronounces "important" like "impordant." It was so noticeably that I realized the author uses the word "important" an incredible number of times in the book.

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for business people

I love this book it was really great. I would say it is along the lines of some of what you might hear in the Lean Startup. But it has even more focus on the trying things out. I have benefited a lot from it and plan to make this a must-read for my company.

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I enjoyed the book.

A good read and I learned about myself in the process. I highly recommend it.