#530: Sir James Dyson — Founder of Dyson and Master Inventor on How to Turn the Mundane into Magic | The Tim Ferriss Show

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Key Takeaways

  • Achievement at a surface level looks a lot like brilliance, but brilliance deemphasizes the hard work, time, and failure that contributed to the achievement
    • “The invention isn’t about being brilliant, it’s about being logical and persistent” – Sir James Dyson
    • “If Henry Ford asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse” – Tim Ferriss
  • Learning by discovery and failure fosters curiosity
    • “I don’t particularly like being taught things, I like to discover things” – Sir James Dyson
  • Product performance, high-quality design, and engineering is the greatest Dyson sales pitch
    • You don’t have to be a professional engineer to contribute creative solutions to complex problems
    • Sir James Dyson has created a university that provides tuition-free and salaried engineering programs to solve problems students value in modern-day society
    • “A thirst for knowledge and determination will solve all the world’s problems” – Sir James Dyson

Intro

Early Career

  • Sir Dyson studied art in university as an experiment but discovered furniture design and architecture
    • Also considers himself an amateur engineer, not an engineer by trade.
    • Engineering Mindset: “Whenever I look at anything, I wonder how it works. Then I wonder if I can make it work better” – Sir James Dyson
  • Jeremy Fry – British inventor that was born into the J. S. Fry & Sons chocolate and founded Rotork Engineering Company in 1957
    • Sir James tried to get funding from Jeremy at 21 years old but gave him design practice and a job instead
    • They developed a wheel boat, the vacuum, and an electric wheelchair together
  • “I don’t particularly like being taught things, I like to discover things” – Sir James Dyson
    • Learning by discovery and failure fosters curiosity
    • Wanted to call his book ‘a life of failure’ which is ironic considering his career
  • Other inspirations came from Citra, Sony, Honda

The genesis of the vacuum

  • Sir Dyson was forced to clean with an incredibly low tech, poor functioning, clunky, smelly vacuum growing up
    • Found that even the most expensive vacuum had these problems
    • Discovered that the vacuum bag needed to be treated as a filter rather than a depository to improve suction performance
    • He got a quote to build the filter but it was far too expensive, so he built it himself
  • Offered to license the product but got rejected: If this idea is practical, one of the big vacuum companies would have already done it…
    • He then went to Jeremy Fry who backed the project
  • Experimented on thousands of prototypes changing one variable at a time:
    • He always knew the one thing that made the product better or worse
    • If you change more than one thing at a time, you can see positive/negative performance but you don’t know why
    • “The invention isn’t about being brilliant, it’s about being logical and persistent” – Sir James Dyson
    • Experimented with 5000+ prototypes over a five-year span

Perseverance

  • Achievement at a surface level looks a lot like brilliance, but brilliance deemphasizes the hard work, time, and failure that contributed to the achievement
  • Never had a Plan B: “Didn’t know if it would work, but I hoped I could make it work” – Sir James Dyson
  • Every time he got turned down, he got more excited because there had to be a reason for a rejection
    • Vacuums are a commodity product, many people didn’t realize they wanted/needed improvement
      • “If Henry Ford asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse” – Tim Ferriss

Design & Marketing

  • In his vacuum design, you could see the dirt/dust within the container
    • Retailers viewed this as a negative feature
    • Sir James Dyson viewed it as the opportunity to visualize the users cleaning accomplishment
      • “Believe you’re right and back it” – Sir James Dyson
  • Dyson vacuums cost 4 times the average vacuum at first
    • “I don’t design down to a price” – Sir James Dyson
    • There’s a market for price points, but Dyson is interested in performance and efficiency and advancing the genre from a technology point of view
  • Initially started in mail-order catalog companies but retailers rejected the product

Dyson

  • Ariblade – hand dryer which was the first product that Dyson sold to people not in their homes which is Sir James’ traditional preference
  • Dyson washing machine was their most successful failure
    • Great performance against the market but they didn’t charge enough to justify it as a premium product
      • Commercial failure but engineering success
      • Similar to the Peloton story
  • Dyson was well-positioned to create an electric car in the 2014 industry innovation stage, but large automobile companies were able to receive carbon credits by producing electric cars at a loss. Dyson simply wasn’t willing to take on the risk of challenging the competitive advantage deficit.

Sir James Dyson’s Billboard Quote

  • There’s nothing wrong with always being dissatisfied, continuously seek improvement
  • Drop your fear of failure
Tim Ferriss Show : , , ,
Notes By Drew Waterstreet

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