“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.” – Samuel Beckett.
James Dyson became frustrated by his traditional and conventional vacuum floor cleaner bag problem. He observed that the pores of his vacuum cleaner dust bag keep getting clogged regularly due to dust, which resulted in reducing suction and hampering performance.
He decided to do something about it by creating a Vacuum cleaner without a bag. He started to look for inspiration and ideas. One day he was visiting a sawmill with the intention of understanding how a saw mill takes care of a huge pile of dust generated during the process. He observed that the sawmill used a technique that created a cyclone of air to get rid of wood dust in their mill.
He started working on the process of miniaturizing the same technology and fit it inside a vacuum cleaner. Finally, after 5 years of trial and error and 5127 prototypes he created a dual cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner and launched his “G- Force” cleaner in 1983.
Well, if you feel that all is well that ends well, then think again. Creating an innovative product and marketing/selling it is a quite a different game.
Even though his vacuum cleaner was super-efficient and speed spinning at 900+ miles/ hour, faster than the speed of sound, it would just not sell. He approached UK retailers, but few things kept them away.
- His was not a well-known brand, so they were not eager to change their alliances with traditional players.
- His was a pricey product.
- His product would disturb the valuable market for replacement dust bags- the UK market for disposable bags was approximately 100 million pounds.
Ironically, he couldn’t find any partner for his product in the UK even after a year-long effort. Frustrated and disappointed he started looking elsewhere. He eyed the Japanese market and started selling in Japan through catalog sales. The price- 2000 pounds.
Well, it took off and became a status symbol. It even won the 1991 International design fair prize award in Japan. Sales from Japan helped him to be on his own and thus founded his company “Dyson Ltd” in 1993 and also opened a manufacturing plant in the UK. When his product was introduced in the US market in 2002, it just took off, becoming a market leader by 2005.
The rest is vacuum history.
The product garnered so many fans that it entered the permanent collects of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the design museum of London and Zurich, and bagged a long list of accolades.
Today, this inventor is the fourth richest person in the UK with an estimated net worth of 16 billion pounds.
Today his company employs close to 6000 engineers and scientists around the world and invests approximately 10 million $ per week in R&D. His company spends nearly 18% of its sales revenue on research. Comparing this with Apple which spends roughly 6% on R&D, you’ll realize the importance it places on R&D.
On his journey of invention, he experienced various milestones:
By his 15th prototype, his 3rd child was born.
By 2627th Prototype, he was almost penniless and mortgaged his house.
By 3127, his wife was working overtime, giving art lessons for extra cash.
By 5127, he finally got it right.
Now, just imagine- 5126 failures. Very proudly he says that the only person who has failed more than him is Edison. Remember, the famous and iconic “10000 ways that won’t work” statement. But James Dyson is right when he says, “In the end, Edison’s 10000 failures are long being forgotten by his significant 1093 patents.”
James Dyson really loves failure because it teaches him a lot and propels him forward. He said, “Stumbling upon the next great invention in an ah-aha moment is a myth. It is only by learning from mistakes and failures that real progress is made. Each failure brought me closer to solving a problem.”
Now just pause and think about it for a moment.
You are out of work, 3 children to feed, home mortgaged, 5126 failed prototypes, no light at the end of the tunnel. Ask yourself what would you do? Will you still persist and carry on or take the easy way out: give up?
Agreed 5127 prototypes became the best-selling bagless vacuum cleaner, but the seed of success was sown in the 5126 failures that preceded. It was the epic journey of failure that led him to his final destination of success.
Success is a byproduct of failures.
Watching his epic failures and learning from them took him on a completely different path that he could never have imagined. With every failure, he learned what worked and what didn’t work.
Always remember this “You rarely learn from success, but immense learning happens from failure.”
Recently speaking at the virtual design innovation forum in Singapore organized by the University of Technology and Design he said, “Failure is a way to progress and if a person fails 95% of the time, then you are doing well,” he continued, “Success tells you nothing but failure tells us that something is wrong — why it was wrong and how you might overcome it.”
Addressing issues of Education, “you should get just as many marks for failing as you do for passing,” he said, “Because if you fail, you have the experience of failure and you have to work out how to get the right answer. Whereas if you always know the right answer, you haven’t really gone through much thought.” So, to nurture creativity a different atmosphere is needed in schools, where people can experience failure and work out how to overcome their failures.
His passion for failing has not stopped, they are still on. His recent failure is scrapping his electric car project in 2019 which he has announced very enthusiastically in 2019. It cost him almost a billion dollars.
He is upbeat for he says, “We have applied a lot of what we learned into what we are doing now.”
I urge you to positively embrace failures in life, not in a foolish way but in a problem-solving way. Life is a journey of problem solving. Failure is great as long as you learn something.
Let me know your comments below, about your past failures in life and how it helped you grow and progress.