If the only sure thing in business is uncertainty, do large upfront investments and 18-month plans make any sense? Not if you want to be in business 18 months later.
There’s a better way. A way that takes advantage of uncertainty and change. In fact, the concepts Peter Sims brings to life in his book Little Bets will illuminate a new approach to creating ideas and products. With an artists touch Peter weaves entertaining stories that show how comedians, architects and entrepreneurs use little bets to win big. Profiles include Frank Gehry, Chris Rock, and Steve Jobs.
Let’s review the sparks of wisdom in Peter’s scintillating book. What are little bets? Little bets are a way to invest a small amount of time and money to learn about a product or idea. For example, you could create a software prototype and show it to customers for feedback. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos uses the analogy of planting seeds and uncovering opportunities. Amazon embraces experimental innovation; employees are encouraged to try things and develop new ideas.
Mr. Sims identifies six fundamental concepts that power the little bets approach. Here’s three.
Experiment: Learn by doing. Create experiments and prototypes to learn from you audience, these acts help you build up to creative ideas and insights. When Chris Rock works on a new show, he starts at small comedy clubs where he experiments with rough forms of his jokes. Chris notes the audiences reactions and builds on it. Some jokes are flat-out failures. For those flops, he fails quickly so he can learn fast.
Reorient: Be flexible in terms of larger goals. Use small wins to make necessary pivots. In the world of Agile software development, new requirements are welcomed.
Iterate: Repeat, refine, and test frequently. As you receive better insights, information, and feedback from your acts, adjust accordingly and perfect your art.
How do you learn to be flexible? Some entrepreneurs credit Montessori preschool for increasing their ability to question, explore and discover... helping them conduct experiments and learn from customers.
In software development, business executives are jumping on Agile software like a cat pouncing on a mouse. Peter explains that Agile is an example of little bets. Agile encourages teams to be self-directed, work in two-week sprints, and embrace change. Instead of directing or managing teams, Agile coaches ask questions to guide the team. So for many software people they’re returning to school – the Montessori school of Agile.
Agile teams select features from a product backlog and create working software in a sprint. The team demos the software to senior management and customers. After the software review, management can decide to fail fast and cancel the project, start another iteration, or launch the product, obtaining additional market insights.
Scrum, an Agile framework, tells us the language of Scrum is business. Instead of speaking geek, talk to CEOs and customers in business terms.
So for everyone who creates new products and wants to play the game of product development − Grab a copy of “Little Bets”, read it cover to cover, and practice the principles. When you read Peter’s book, you will start to become the innovator you always wanted to be.