Stop trying to predict the unpredictable
Your traditional linear planning process has a new agile teammate. This teammate brings a complementary set of skills to your planning game: creativity and innovation that’s low risk and high gain. Too good to be true? Not according to Peter Sims. He says, “The reality is that most of what we try to predict and plan for is unpredictable.” We need a more nimble means for responding to and acting on the changing environment around us.
Sims, author of Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, endorses an approach that requires making good use of small experiments by repeating, refining and perfecting for large wins. Adopting an experimental approach requires a different mindset for most of us. We’ve been programmed since early childhood that failure is bad. Sims uses a blend of theory and practice to demonstrate how committing to a series of small bets—or often illuminating failures—is a breeding ground for innovation. This entrepreneurial experimentation is not only decidedly rigorous and strategic, but also wildly successful.
Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, put it succinctly, “You can’t put into a spreadsheet how people are going to behave around a new product.” This sentiment is held widely among many different industry and sector leaders including comedy’s Chris Rock, Google’s David Galenson, Pixar’s John Lasseter, and Grameen Bank’s Muhammad Yunus. Today’s traditional long-range planning must be accompanied by what author Peter Sims likes to refer to as “experimental innovation. These creators use experimental, iterative, trial-and-error approaches to gradually build up to breakthroughs.
Experimental innovators must be persistent and willing to accept failure and setbacks as they work toward their goal.” Anyone can use little bets to unlock the mystery behind what’s unpredictable and potentially remarkably successful.
Sims has written this important book about how all of us can tap into the innovative behavior of successful entrepreneurs. We just have to be willing to, no, anxiously anticipate the errors and surprises along the way that help us isolate the winning answers. While traditional ways of working are useful when much information is known, little bets are essential when it’s not.