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Little Bets: Creativity in Business

Image from http://petersims.comI’ve recently finished reading Little Bets, by Peter Sims. The book, which is excellent, can be summed up with two main points:

  • The best way to innovate is often to make a “little bet” that’s not financially burdensome in order to discover if an idea will be successful.
  • Success or failure of an idea shouldn’t necessarily be black and white. Failure can point to success, especially if one takes Thomas Edison’s view of finding “…a thousand ways not to make a lightbulb.”

The author details examples ranging from Pixar under Steve Jobs to General McMaster’s innovative techniques for pacifying the insurgent-riddled city of Tal Afar in Iraq. What really struck me, though, was Sims’s take on education: namely, that the U.S. system is out of date and out of touch with a business world that now values creativity over rote memorization.

Wow. What a challenge to what we might typically think…to the ways we typically are taught to think. I agree with him. In today’s world, having an engaged and actively creative workforce is a competitive advantage all its own.

What does that look like? As Sims lays it out, it’s all about failure. Yep. Failure. Just as Thomas Edison learned a lot of ways not to build a lightbulb, we as business professionals need to learn to not take failure so personally. Find a hundred ways not to run a CPA firm or a thousand ways to screw up running a retail store. That’s fine. Just use little bets to do it with- experiments small enough to not hurt too much when almost all of them fail. If you want to out-compete, be willing to fail more often than anyone.

Thanks for reading,

-Taylor