Innovation is an important part of everyones’ lives. We have to be able to think of new ideas and new ways to do things in order to be able to improve our lives and enjoy what we do. But there are different ways of innovating. A book I’ve recently finished reading, called Little Bets, shows a new and different way of thinking about success and innovation.
Peter Sims, the author, uses examples such as Frank Gehry, the architect of buildings such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and the comedian Chris Rock, to demonstrate this new way of achieving goals. Since reading the book, I’ve been thinking differently about a lot of things I do in my life, using the little bets approach. It’s easiest to explain little bets in terms of a business, but in fact little bets can be made in all parts of our lives.
Traditionally, businesses innovated through coming up with a master plan. Their employees will be told to “innovate”, so they’ll sit down, come up with ideas, then write a huge document outlining everything to do with that idea. Then that document will be sent off to the developers or manufacturers who make it to the letter. And then the product is either a huge hit or a massive flop. In many ways, this form of innovation comes down to luck as to whether it is successful or not.
The little bets approach, in contrast, involves looking for a problem and then trying to build something to solve that problem in a very simple form. So for example, if a website is to be created, then that website will be created in the most simple way it possibly can be – without great graphics and lots of features. But then, the business can start to get users of their product or website. And in turn, those early users will tell the business what they like about the product and what they don’t like about it. Then the business gets their manufacturers or developers to use the customer’s feedback to change the product.
The end result, some of you may have picked up, reflects what the users want. And all it’s involved is taking a little bet at the start. The basic website would have cost a fraction of the cost of a website developed using a “master plan”, and the little bet website will also have a much larger chance of eventual success.
Sims uses people like the comedian Chris Rock to show how little bets can be applied to our everyday lives. Rock would go to local restaurants or bars and perform a huge number of jokes to audiences. And he fully expected that most of the jokes would be absolutely terrible. But by taking lots of little bets by performing jokes to audiences, he would eventually be able to work out which jokes people liked and which they didn’t. So instead of just sitting down and thinking up some jokes, then hoping that they were funny on the night of a big performance, Rock would perform in front of small crowds and make little bets on lots of jokes in order to work out the best ones.
If little bets can even be applied to comedy – then how can they be applied to your life in order to help you achieve better?
They teach you about the importance of studying, but they really don’t teach you much at all about the process of studying. Sure, they might tell you that you need to eat healthy and take regular breaks. But do they teach you how to get past procrastination and actually get study done? Doubtful. But you’re about to learn how.
Some of you may think that you have good willpower, and will be able to use your computer while studying but avoid visiting Facebook, Twitter, or any other distracting websites. If any of you can honestly do that, I congratulate you, and you need not read further. But for the majority of us, it’s all too tempting to click on these websites “just for a second”. Nek minnit… Half an hour has passed and you remember you’re meant to be studying.
A single application will solve that problem for you.
It’s quite aptly named – called Concentrate. You can download it and use it for free for 60hours, but after that you’ll have to pay (it costs $29 – very cheap for how much it’ll help you).
Here’s how it works. Concentrate lets you create a “Task”, and then create “Rules” for that task. So, for example, I created the task “Study”. Then for that task, I created rules like “Block all social network websites”, and “Block applications: Twitter, Mail”. When you then activate the task, all those rules will be applied to your computer until you end the task. So, for the duration that you have the task activated, you won’t be able to visit any social networking websites or open the Twitter or Mail applications (using the above example).
You can create an endless number of rules, from opening and closing applications and websites, to changing desktop backgrounds and setting personal reminders and playing songs.
With Concentrate, that quick click on Facebook becomes impossible. And you really are forced to concentrate. After a while using Concentrate, you might find that your brain has been trained to not even click on Facebook at all – and maybe you truly will be able to study for an hour without being distracted. But, Concentrate is the first step in getting to that point.
Do check it out. I guarantee that it’ll help you study ten times more effectively. And in fact, you should even recommend it to your teachers – they might find it useful in concentrating while they prepare classes. Because no one is immune to distractions these days.