A little bet is a small, achievable, affordable action taken to discover and develop new ideas.
Little bets are what Peter Sims defined as the very factor which separates breakthrough innovators and outstanding achievers from the rest of us. In his most recent book, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, Sims tried to figure out how creative thinkers and doers discover great ideas and why most of us don't work the same way.
He found that Ludwig van Beethoven, Thomas Edison, Jeff Bezos, Chris Rock, Bill Hewitt, Steve Jobs, story developers at Pixar, and the Army Chief of Strategic Plans all had one thing in common when it came to achieving outstanding results: they frequently took many small bets.
Instead of believing they have to start with a big idea, plan the project, and try to predict the final outcome, all of them took a series of little bets about what might be a good direction to go in. They learned from small failures and significant wins as they adapted, iterated, and fine tuned their ideas to achieve amazing results
In this talk Sims goes into the reasons why most of us do not take these small bets the same way innovators do. We develop a fixed mindset at a young age opposed to the growth mindset we need to have in order to take many of these small bets.
A fixed mindset is developed as the child is praised for their abilities and achievements rather than effort. If a child is praised for their abilities/achievements, practices a lot and doesn't achieve the results they hoped for, they will most likely not want to practice, iterate and improve. However, if a child is praised for their effort from an early age, they grow up realizing they can take a lot of little bets, iterate and achieve great results.
Sims shares a number of real life stories of how taking small bets and iterating has played a vital role in the breakthrough innovations of Bill Hewitt, Jeff Bezos, storywriters at Pixar, Steve Jobs and many others. Enjoy the talk!