How to Develop an Innovative Mindset With Little Bets

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If you’ve ever spent time around entrepreneurs or thought of starting up yourself, you know that the quest for the next “big idea” can be never ending.

It can also be off putting and stop you before you get started.

It can be kinda like looking up at Mount Everest when your learning how to hike. “Maybe this isn’t for me?” you might think and move on or give up.

It’s not all about “big ideas.” In fact, many of the titans of the business world didn’t get their start with big ideas but, rather, with “little bets.”1

Little bets are those ideas that are small enough to try out but valuable enough to spend your time and effort on.

Take, for example, the comedian Chris Rock. Chris picks venues where he can experiment with material. Before his most recent global tour, he visited a smaller club 40-50 times unannounced to crowds of less than 50 people. Chris would take a legal pad with him with scribbled ideas he would test out. “It’s like boxing training camp,” Rock told the Orange County Register.2

And most of those ideas fail.

But, rather than take it to heart as a personal failure, Chris uses the experience to find the material that does work and builds his routine around that.

Once asked by a reporter about his missteps, Thomas Edison famously replied, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”

Jeff Bezos approaches things similarly. The Amazon culture encourages experimentation. Bezos compares Amazon’s strategy of developing ideas in new markets to “going down blind alleys.” Some efforts result in dead ends. But Bezos says, “Every once in a while, you go down an alley and it opens up into this huge, broad avenue.”3

That is the innovative mindset. It’s about tinkering and trying out. But that is not to say it doesn’t require skill, talent and effort; it assumes all three.

Silicon Valley has this saying, “fail fast, fail often.” I’ve never liked it because it puts an emphasis on winning versus failing when that misses the point. The point is learning. Failing is learning and, when you look at it that way, it’s not failing at all.

As lawyers we’re trained to get it right, the first time. Failing is not an option. Failure is what leads to bar complaints, malpractice lawsuits and we are wise to avoid that at all costs. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t experiment at all.

There are some things we can and should tinker with. For example, new ways of finding clients, new ways of offering your services (by email or Skype, flat fee or monthly subscriptions), or employing new technology to save time on drafting documents, or using a virtual assistant to manage your schedule, or any other aspect of running your law firm as a business.

Maybe, for example, map out a workflow, like client intake and break it down into steps. How could you do things differently? Maybe try different options? Why not run one client thru your original process and another one through a new one you think might work better? And, don’t forget to ask the clients what they thought worked better for them!

It’s what you do with what you’ve learned that matter most. Don’t let the feedback stop you; learn from it.

What little bet will you make?

1 – Peter Sims, Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries (2011, Free Press).

2 – Ibid.

3 – Ibid.

About Tom Martin

@lawdroid Tom is a legal bot advocate, author and speaker. He is a lawyer and founder of LawDroid (a bot development and consulting company for the legal industry).Tom is also co-founder of Vancouver Legal Hackers, advisor to ATJ Tech Fellow Program, member of ARAG Technology Innovation Committee, and Chair of Education for Group Legal Services Association.Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Tom now lives in Vancouver, Canada with his wife and two daughters.

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