Getting from Little Bets to Big Breakthroughs


Program Highlights

  • What do Bill Hewlett, Chris Rock, and Jeff Bezos have in common?
  • How risk-averse organizations can capitalize on design school principles.
  • Overcoming psychological barriers to creative experimentation.

Much like the standup comedian who tests and refines jokes in small clubs before rolling them out to a television audience, most successful entrepreneurs don’t begin with brilliant ideas: they discover them through a deliberate process of creative trial and error. From his research on innovative leaders—from Apple, 3M, Toyota, and Starbucks, to the U.S. Army’s counterinsurgency strategists, to artists and even standup comics—Peter Sims found they shared a surprisingly similar approach.

These innovators methodically take small experimental ideas through a process of testing, failure, and refinement. Their low-risk “little bets” provide critical information for multiple iterations and successive small wins that eventually lead to creative breakthroughs. Pixar, for example, was acquired by Steve Jobs as a hardware company, but its peripheral and low-risk experimentation in short animated films over several years ultimately led it to pivot to full-length filmmaking and the highly successful Toy Story franchise.

Peter Sims is the author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, and the coauthor of True North. A graduate of Bowdoin College, he received his MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Getting from Little Bets to Big Breakthroughs

Peter Sims

Author of Little Bets


51 Minutes