Peter Sims is a best-selling author and entrepreneur. His latest book is Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, which grew out of a collaboration with faculty at Stanford’s Institute of Design (the d.school), a hub of creative thinking and doing, and his previous work in venture capital with Summit Partners, including as part of the team that established Summit’s European Office in London. He was also the coauthor with Bill George of the best-seller True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, is a member of G.E.’s Innovation Advisory Panel, and is a Co-founder and Director of Fuse Corps, a social venture that places entrepreneurial leaders on year-long grassroots projects with mayors and governors to tackle some of America’s most pressing problems. Some of his favorite pursuits include family, friends, music, people, learning, San Francisisco Giants baseball, and laughter.
Quick Reference Card
• Discover the passion and purpose to inspire and empower others
• Learn how people go from being good to great as leaders
• Understand the importance of knowing your personal story
• Learn how companies and managers can combine the successful innovation processes from design thinking with effective strategy and leadership
• Learn how to use design thinking to create a new customer-focused culture of innovation
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Peter Sims is a best-selling author and entrepreneur. His latest book is Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries, and he was the coauthor with Bill George of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, which was a Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek best-seller.
Sims has had a long collaboration with faculty at Stanford’s Institute of Design (the d.school), a hub of creative thinking and doing, and received an M.B.A. from Stanford Business School where he established a popular class. Previously, he worked in venture capital with Summit Partners, including as part of the team that established Summit’s European Office in London. He is a member of G.E.’s Innovation Advisory Panel, and is a Co-founder and Director of Fuse Corps, a social venture that places entrepreneurial leaders on year-long grassroots projects with mayors and governors to tackle some of America’s most pressing problems.
His articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Financial Times, Harvard Business Review, Mashable, strategy+business, Tech Crunch, and as an Expert blogger for Fast Company. He frequently speaks or advises at corporations, associations, and universities, including Google, Eli Lilly, Pixar, ConAgra, Gap Inc., Cisco Systems, Current TV, Amazon, and Stanford University.
A graduate of Bowdoin College, he lives in San Francisco and some of his favorite pursuits include family, friends, music, people, learning, San Francisco Giants baseball, and laughter. And, his great-great-great grandfather, Jacob Gundlach, founded Gundlach Bundschu (GunBun) in Sonoma, California’s oldest family-owned winery, which is run today by his cousins who, unlike Peter, actually know a lot about wine.
Leadership: Leading from Your True North
Peter shares the stories and lessons he has learned from some of the world’s most-respected leaders, including both their successes and failures, from his work on leadership while at Stanford Business School as well as to research True North. True North picks up where Jim Collins left off in Good to Great: how do people go from good to great leaders? Sims led the research of the leaders profiled for True North, including Starbuck’s founder Howard Schultz, CEO of Palm Inc. Donna Dubinsky, Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric, Oprah Winfrey, Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy, Narayana Murthy of Infosys, Andrea Jung CEO of Avon Products. Themes include: * How to lead yourself effectively, including knowing your personal story. For example, Howard Schultz, the founder and CEO of Starbucks, wants to build a company where his father would be proud to work. He gets his inspiration from his early life memories. When he was 7 years old, his father broke his leg and lost his job, as well as the family’s healthcare insurance and the family struggled to get by. That is why Schultz wanted Starbucks to become the first US corporation to provide healthcare benefits for both its full-time and part-time employees. Schultz uses his personal story to connect with and inspire his employees. * How to use personal failures and setbacks to grow. Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, had one of his best learning experiences when he dramatically failed to hit his operating targets during his mid-30s. He took a lot of heat from then CEO Jack Welch, but Immelt recovered and grew enormously through the difficult time. * How to effectively lead from your values during times of economic turmoil. Great leaders, like Narayana Murthy and Anne Mulcahy, know that when times are difficult, more than ever, their people respond to their values. Mulcahy saved Xerox from bankruptcy in 2001 by using her values (and the company’s values) to call out the best efforts from Xerox’s 96,000 employees. Mulcahy and her team miraculously turned the company around. The Xerox story is just one of many from top leaders: executives and managers use their values to weather difficulty.
Little Bets (strategy, innovation, creativity)
Little Bets (a forthcoming book from Simon & Schuster: Free Press) is about a creative process of experimental innovation that uses little bets to build up to great outcomes. Instead of trying to decide the best thing to do with limited information, little bets help people do things to learn what they should do in new territory. This approach has emerged from an unlikely collection of people: from creative artists, to bootstrapped entrepreneurs, to military strategists, to agile software developers, to Japanese car manufacturers, to the rapidly growing field of design thinking. Based on rigorous research about what works and what does not, Little Bets uses examples as far-flung as Chris Rock, Beethoven, Toyota, Frank Gehry, and Pixar to describe a method for “learning by doing,” using sophisticated methods of iteration and testing that employs six core principles: orient to a strong mission but be flexible about the output; experiment to learn quickly by failing fast; immerse in the real world to understand problems and needs; define specific problems and opportunities; generate creative possibilities; build around small wins, and, iterate repeat, refine, test, and build – a series of small bets that can open unlikely transformative opportunities and outcomes. * Being willing to fail often to accomplish great outcomes. Comedians like Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld must make thousands of little bets, most of which fail, in small comedy clubs over many months before they hone an hour-long act that that they can take on TV and tour. This is a difficult and often uncomfortable process, even for well-known figures like Rock and Seinfeld, but their hard work and determination eventually leads to world-class performances. * The research, such as from Clayton Christensen, clearly demonstrates that organizations decline and fail when they become too rigid and risk-averse. Or, as Jeff Bezos at Amazon says, “What’s very dangerous is not to evolve.” Little bets are an antidote: a way of thinking in the unknown that starts with problems and needs and encourages adaptation based on facts, not opinions.
"Peter not only speaks about authentic leadership, but he delivers the message authentically. He has a natural ability to connect with his audience through his experience and passion for leadership. I also really appreciated his willingness to customize his message to meet the specific needs of our audience. He was great to work with, and we had standing room only at our speaking event!" — Global Leadership Development, Eli Lilly
"It was a privilege and delight to work with Peter. His observations were insightful, presentations compelling and most importantly he displayed a genuine interest in everyone with whom he came in contact." — President & CEO, Molson Coors
"Peter quickly captured the attention of the room, connecting with the participants, inspiring them to think about their own leadership approaches, and enlightening them with key takeaways from role models. The end result was applauded as one of the highlights of our three day retreat." — Executive Director, Full Circle Fund