Friday, June 3, 2011

'I Love Mistakes'

Most of us have seen the Dyson commercials for the ultimate vacuum cleaner. They are slick, sophisticated, and simple. James Dyson, the inventor, shares how he invented a no mess or fuss vacuum cleaner that keeps its cool, efficient sucking power without a bag.

He writes an essay in Newsweek about 'My Favorite Mistake:'

"I started with an idea: a vacuum with no bag. The bag was a problem. The bag clogs with dust, the machine wheezes, losing its puff. So, inspired by an industrial cyclone at a timber mill, I created a vacuum that used centrifugal force to separate the dust and dirt. No bag, no clogging, no loss of suction. It didn’t look great, but it worked. After five years of testing, tweaking, fist banging, cursing, and more than 5,000 mistakes—or prototypes, as engineers call them—it was there. Or nearly there."

However, "No one would license my machine; it was good for cleaning but bad for business. Hamilton Beach was another one: “James, you’ve got two minutes.” Five years in two minutes? I love brisk meetings, but this was a useless exercise only made worse because they wouldn’t let me use the word “suck.” I saw them all: Black & Decker, Eureka, Kirby. No. No. Yes. I mean no. Electrolux said a vacuum without a bag wouldn’t sell...."

Finally, Dyson realized that he was wasting his time. He needed to bring his invention to market himself. "I finally understood that if I wanted to make the machine, I’d have to do it myself. So after three fruitless years, a brief but expensive interlude with a licensee, and no money to show for it, I went off on my own...."

Thanks to Dyson's persistence and learning from mistakes his very profitable company is growing and now also sells a bladeless fan and a hand dryer that has made paper towels redundant. "The company, which now employs 2,500 staff worldwide, is in the middle of a program to double the number of scientists and engineers it employs to 700 to ensure it can keep pumping out the new inventions we never knew we needed."