2 min read

Big Bets Framework

This post is a bit different from my regular programming, so if you're only here for the AWS content, just skip this one. This post is more of a summary of prioritisation and decision making I heard on a podcast (1:18:28): Big Bets framework.

The bets

On a single piece of paper, write down the six big bets you're making this year.

For each of the six bets, write the bet, and explain why you're taking it. Include the problem or issue you're hoping to solve with this bet. It shouldn't be long, just "Here's the situation, here's the bet".

The exact number isn't critical, but six is good because it gives you room to work with when it comes to your focus (see below), without being so many as to be distracting.

You're not meant to get them all

The reason why six is a good number of bets to take is that it gives you flexibility to prioritise and double-down on the ones that are working, at the cost of those that aren't. With six bets, you get a nice distribution of success and failure:

  • Two will likely fail or not happen, ideally because you're spending too much time on the bets that are succeeding, and putting more time in to what's working.
  • Four of your bets should succeed, with outcomes +/-20% of what you planned.
  • Two bets should be big successes, in part due to the additional focus and effort you put in to them when they start working. These bets will more than make up for the ones that failed AND the ones that "did OK".

You should make each and every of these goals worthy. If you smash them all your goals, then they were too easy and you're missing out because you're aiming too low - aim higher!

Not doing bets

After writing your big bets, take the time to write down in short bullet points the bets or goals that you could very reasonably attempt, but will not do. This should touch on why you're not going to do them, and these reasons will likely focus on the opportunity costs of other potential bets.

This "Not Doing" section forces you to call-out the potentially good/sensible things you could do, which recognises that you have limited time and resources, and stops you from spreading yourself too thin.

This section is at least as valuable as the big bets section, if not more so! So don't skip it, and refer to it when you're making decisions about what to do next or how to go about your big bets.

I like this approach because it embraces the reality of uncertainty that exists in all approaches. The reality is that you can't know in advance which ones of your bets will be the big successes - otherwise you'd just do them immediately! With this framework you cast your net wide with the six bets, but not so wide that you try to do every "good" idea.

Don't get down if you don't hit all your goals - it's part of the plan. If you're doing it right, you're not hitting you're goals because you're other bets are going great!