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P1 Business


Submitted By sophslong
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Failure is interesting,” Dyson tells “It’s part of making progress. You never learn from success, but you do learn from failure. I started out with a simple idea, and by the end it got much more audacious and interesting. I got to a place I never could have imagined because I learned what worked and didn’t work. We have to embrace failure and almost get a kick out of it. Not in a perverse way, but in a problem-solving way.”

Design graduate Dyson’s ultimately-successful problem-solving experiments began in 1979. “I’d purchased what claimed to be the most powerful vacuum cleaner on the market,” he tells “But it was essentially useless. Rather than sucking up the dirt, it pushed it around the room. I’d seen an industrial sawmill which used something called a cyclonic separator to remove dust from the air, and I thought the same principle of separation might work on a vacuum cleaner. I rigged up a quick prototype, and it did.”

It took five years and a further five thousand one hundred and twenty-six prototypes to perfect his design, and almost another decade of failed licensing deals and countless fruitless meetings with distributors before Dyson’s Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaner finally went on sale in the UK in 1993.

Having failed to interest any manufacturers in the design, Dyson had mortgaged his house to set up his own manufacturing plant. “I liked living on the edge,” he says. “All those years that my house was in hock to the bank… I liked the danger, the idea that everything depended on getting that next product right in every way.”

By 1996 the business was growing rapidly and he needed to consider new management strategies. “I had to bring in outside talent in a major way,” he says. “I didn’t enjoy being CEO that much. At an operational level, that became an enormous job, too big for me. I’ve never really been a businessman. I wanted to carry on the design and engineering myself; that’s what I love doing.”

Today, as one of the leading brands in the world, the company has around one thousand five hundred staff in the UK, with four thousand more working in production plants in Malaysia and China. Dyson is a firm believer in encouraging creative risk-taking in employees. “I hire people who embrace the fact that failure is interesting,” he says. “It’s a matter of having the right attitude – humble, curious, determined, willing to try and fail. Then you must remove any sort of criticism of revolutionary suggestions.”

Dyson continued to come up with improvements on the vacuum cleaner design, eventually getting rid of the messy bag arrangement completely and allowing users to see the dirt as it collected in a clear plastic bin the machine’s midsection, an innovation which appealed to consumers in a big way. In 2005, he added the wheel ball idea to make the vacuum cleaner easier to push around.

Passionate about rebuilding the design and engineering sector in the UK, Dyson has set up a charitable foundation to fund the incubation of the brightest young innovators for up to three years while they bring their ideas to fruition. “I want entrepreneurs to be engineers and scientists and designers,” he tells “We’ve got brilliant people and they should be encouraged.”
The secret of his own success, he believes, is very simple: he makes things that people want to buy. And he does so in truly innovative ways. “Making something work is a very creative thing to do,” says Dyson. “You don’t have to bother to be creative if the first time you do something, it works. Creativity is creating something that no-one could have devised; something that hasn’t existed before and solves problems that haven’t been solved before.”

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