A company bet in the context of this pattern is a potential project. The language comes from the world of gambling, where players will make bets, for example on the outcome of a sporting event, or a hand of poker. Implicit in the language of bets is the language of uncertainty and risk. For example when a bet is placed on a sporting event the bet is placed against set odds. The higher the risk the higher the potential pay-out — and of course the greater the chance you will lose your money.
This language is a good fit for the evaluation and selection of software projects. In a complex environment there is no certainty. The outcome of the project cannot be known in advance, nor can the customer reaction to the end product produced. Of course there are ways of reducing risk — for example by applying design thinking techniques before selecting a project. However the fundamental reality remains that no matter how many risk-mitigation strategies you apply the outcome of a project executed in a complex environment cannot be known in advance. All that decision makers can do is weigh up the odds.
Implementing the pattern
For a framework that puts betting at the heart of the system, check out the Basecamp Shape Up framework. This framework is built around the concept of shaping ideas into credible bets that will fit into a six week development window.
Spotify were one of the early adopters of the company bets language. See this blog from Henrik Kniberg which gives a succinct example of the company bet Spotify made on mobile.
For a deeper dive into the world of betting and decision making in uncertainty check out the works of Poker Champion Annie Duke