Little Bets for Big Ideas in Agile Development

A fun little book was published recently on leadership that really struck a chord with me. Most all of the topics covered by Peter Sims new book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveriesseemed very Agile to me.

The basic premise that Sims talks about is a “little bet.”

“A little bet is a low-risk action to discover, develop, and test an idea.  Little bets are the at the center of an approach to get to the right idea…without getting stymied by perfectionism, risk-aversion, or excessive planning.”

Sims, a consultant who co-authored the leadership classic True North, documents how some of the greatest achievements in business resulted from small-scale micro-experiments that provide real-time intelligence and customer feedback, adaptation, and new versions. From Jeff Bezos at Amazon to Eric Schmidt and Sergey Brin at Google, these leaders distrust complex processes and want lots of feedback from customers (OoOoo, very Agile).

By running small experiments with real customers, Sims shows, you develop data, make adjustments, try again. Ultimately, you have the customer-proven results that senior managers love.

Make Little Bets in Agile – Tips from Sims:

  • Systematically learn from setbacks: To learn from your business decisions, you need a mindset that sees failure as an opportunity to make what you do better.
  • Drop failures quickly: Create a prototype of an idea or service, and drop it when it fails without pride of authorship.
  • “Smallify” problems: Bing Gordon, a cofounder and the former chief creative officer of Electronic Arts, popularized the process of guiding software teams to break job tasks down into particular problems to be solved within one or two weeks, rather than setting long-term management goals during which teams often got lost. Smallification is a key tenet in agile software development, which emphasizes collaborative teams responding to customer feedback using live software platforms (the familiar Google “beta” tag for new offerings under development is an example).
  • Learn a lot from a little: Test your little steps on extreme users, the highly informed, intensely passionate consumers or peers whose evaluations will be rich in feedback.

[HT: BNet]

Author: peter

Peter Saddington is an Organizational Scientist and Certified Scrum Trainer. You can find him at

6 thoughts on “Little Bets for Big Ideas in Agile Development”

  1. I wonder if Agile can save the NFL Season? The lockout being caused by the owners is a direct result for lack of communication from ALL of the PARTIES, similar to a SCRUM in rugby without a scrum half, a software development team without its Agile Scrum Master, or an NFL team without its QB. It SIMPLY will NOT work. If ANYTHING, I wish the players and owners could take a lesson from the Pocket Guide, and learn to Communicate, Collaborate, Cooperate, and most of all: WORK SMART, WORK HARD, and at the end of the day, simply GET THINGS DONE like we are taught to do every minute of every day.

    All this just so I can watch Julio Jones play in the Georgia Dome on Sundays?

    At this point my NFL season consists of the LSU Tigers, the GA Bulldogs, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, and the Florida State Seminoles. So I guess my message coming into THIS particular NFL season is: “GEAUX NOLES”!!! since the NFL is actually lagging behind local high schools in preparation of the upcoming season at this point.

    Camp starts July 22, and they are no closer to an answer as they were 4mo ago.

  2. Pingback: Little Bets for Big Ideas in Agile Development | Agile | Syngu
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