Inventive Trial-and-Error: James Dyson’s Vacuum Cleaner


If you’ve been alert for the past few years, it would be difficult not to have seen one of the funky vacuum cleaners developed by James Dyson, the British engineer, inventor and entrepreneur.  The September 20, 2010  issue of the The New Yorker recently profiled Dyson and one of his latest inventions, the Air Multiplier fan.  A passage from that article caught my attention in light of a recent post on TechRazorBlog about iteration in the business process: 

In engineering his vacuum cleaner, Dyson followed the trial-and-error method developed by Thomas Edison in his Menlo Park invention factory.  He would build a prototype, test it, analyze why it failed, make one change, and build another prototype.  Dyson built 5,271 such prototypes over four years, until he had a machine that satisfied him. 

Wow!  That’s a lot of prototypes, which should make Dyson the king daddy of trial-and-error design.

One Response to Inventive Trial-and-Error: James Dyson’s Vacuum Cleaner

  1. James Hooper says:

    I admire Dyson and find his products not only functional and practical but also laden with style. I was thus somewhat surprised to hear that his reasons for resigning from chair of the board of trustees of the (London) Design Museum, because, in his view, the museum had “become a style showcase” instead of “upholding its mission to encourage serious design of the manufactured object”.

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