Wednesday, 17 October 2012

What Dyson has Learnt!

Monday week ago I went down to a small market village called Malmesbury in rural Wiltshire, UK.

Five minutes north, along a country lane of a really quite quaint village, is the Head Quarters of Dyson.


It is quite an imposing industrial site (sight) really: Built like Fort Knox in the middle of the quintessential English countryside!  

In the car park by reception there is a Harrier Jump Jet on display and as you walk into reception, it is like going into the design museum of Dyson history.


The building is big, silver, stylish and designed as a Hyperinnovation Warehouse, purpose build to amplify and accelerate innovation.


There is an inner sanctum, guarded by frosted glass revolving doors and a top secret pass robot check-in! The secret enclave is called the NPI (New Product Innovation) Centre; where you can only get in if you have been employed by the company for many months.


I got the feeling that I was walking passed Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory! Well, at least Sir James Dyson’s original version of something truly unique and inspirational.

That night, I broke in to the Factory's Secret Inner Sanctum to have sneak look. But I was caught red-handed by the man himself: the Silver Knight James Dyson. So I asked him some questions:


What advice would you give to younger self? Not to take advice. People are too quick to say no to an idea but if you have faith, be persistent. Don't do market research -- it will either tell you what you already know, or put you off all together.

What is the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs make? Aspiring to be an entrepreneur. It shouldn't be a goal in itself and it seems they have got things the wrong way round. First you have to have an idea, develop it and then commercialise it.

What can you learn from the emerging talent? Young people aren't afraid to tackle great problems with gusto. Every year I am surprised by the breadth of entries of the James Dyson Award; it proves that design and engineering can improve life, often in simple ways. Last year's winner, Edward Linacre, created a device that extracts water from air using condensation. It's a simple idea, used to striking effect and it has the potential to save lives.

What -- in your career -- have you been most proud of? The Dyson Digital Motor. Our team of motor engineers has been developing digital motors for over ten years. Spinning five times faster than a Formula One engine, the Dyson digital motor offers masses of potential. Already powering efficient machines like the Dyson Airblade hand dryer but also opening up no end of possibilities for the future.

What has been your worst business decision to date? Failure is good; it's a sure way to understanding why something doesn't work. Some people see the Dyson washing machine as a failure, but it was excellent at washing clothes. Compromising on quality was not an option -- we used the same ball bearings as F1 engines and incorporated a sophisticated contra-rotating drum -- but we didn't make any money out of it. But people who have it now swear by it.

What transformative technology or market force did you not predict? I don't sit around making predictions. Dyson engineers go against the grain, developing technology that solves problems, hopefully proving a few predictions wrong in the process.

Which single device could you not live without? My Dyson security pass. I need it to go and work with the engineers daily. Intellectual property and its protection is our backbone. I would be turned around at the door of our Research, Design and Development without it.

And is Innovation easy? Piece of Chocolate!

'And with that, I then quickly leaped through the great glass frosted revolving doors, jump into the Harrier and made my way to the Slugworth factory. Arr, what mysterious secrets I had gained!'

(You never know it might make for a good book one day!)

Slugworth is Willy Wonker's Infamous Competitor. Q&As stolen from  interview, March 12, 2012.