“Against the Odds” is the autobiography of vacuum guru James Dyson. Jason recently mentioned it in our internal Campfire chat room: “One of the best books about design, business, invention, and entrepreneurship I’ve ever read. Highly recommended. It’s really inspirational. His persistence is otherworldly. You won’t believe what he went through to get this product to market.” Here’s one customer’s review of the book at Amazon:
I especially enjoyed the part about the early development of the machine, in which he made something like one version per day for over three years, varying things one at a time, measuring everything to exhaustion, all the while sinking further and further into debt. Edisonian it was, but sometimes that is the only way—the quest for the quick breakthrough emphasized by modern industrial managers can be a real obstacle to progress.
Ahead, a couple of interesting excerpts from articles on Dyson…
When you watch a writer on a movie programme tearing up page after page, you think he’s in utter despair. And, in many ways, that’s what it’s like for us, but you learn much more in fact from an experiment which didn’t work out how you intended, but instead sheds some light on possibly another way of doing something. It can get very depressing but then suddenly, one day you make a break through, and that’s very exciting…
You can’t go out and do market research to try to solve these problems about what to do next because usually, or very often, you’re doing the opposite of what market research would tell you. You can’t base a new project two years ahead on current market trends and what users are thinking at the moment. That sounds very arrogant. But it isn’t arrogance. You can’t go and ask your customers to be your inventors. That’s your job…
The article also describes the suspended table in the company’s boardroom:
Mr Dyson thought it might “be nice” to have a table with no legs. At all. So in the company’s boardroom there is a giant glass table that is suspended from the ceiling by four cables. Another cable in the centre anchors it to the floor. And there you have the perfect example of how form fuses with function in Mr Dyson’s world.
In Fast Company, He advocates doing things the wrong way.
I made 5127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they’ve had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative…
We’re taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that’s very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It’s exciting, actually. To me, solving problems is a bit like a drug. You’re on it, and you can’t get off.
“I just think things should work properly” [SvN]
Dyson does it again with “The Ball” [SvN]
This commercial for the Dyson Slim digs at the competition in a lighthearted way, a tough thing to do.