November 27, 2006


James Dyson, a British-born engineer, inventor and industrial designer, was vacuuming his house in the late 70's when he became frustrated when his top-of-the-line Hoover began clogging and losing suction. He immediately set out to develop new technology to solve the problem.

More than 15 years and over 5,000 prototypes later, James Dyson overcame insurmountable odds - including near financial ruin and numerous patent lawsuits against companies trying to copy his technology - to develop the first vacuum cleaner that doesn't lose suction....(read the rest here)

Dyson_vacuum_cleaner The driver here was Dyson's frustration - I'd prefer to call it dissatisfaction - with the existing way of doing something. Fuelled by this motivation the inventor sets out to create a new way of doing something.

A key lesson from Dyson - and all inventors - is that their first solution is rarely the best. They need to test and test until their solution meets their needs.  For me this testing adopts a scientific methodology, where personal subjectivity gives way to objective analysis of results as to whether or not their idea meets the purpose for which it was designed.

Having come up with a solution that is proven to meet their original vision the inventor then has the even harder task of sharing their ideas with others and persuading them that their idea can be tranferred to other contexts.

The parts of Inventing are: disatisfaction; creativity; testing; meeting purpose; and marketing.

An educational example:

Dissatisfaction: Our disatisfaction stems from a recognition that there are too many children who slide through our hands without challenging themselves or actively engaging with the education process. We also recognise that many people who work for us are disatisified with aspects of their work which we could collectively do something about. Finally, we appreciate that we do not work well collectively nor feel connected to something broader than a world beyond our immediate day-to-day experience.

Creativity: We must encourage and support people to explore alternative ways in which we can meet our vision.

Testing: We must adopt a rigorous approach towards testing the claims for any alternative approach.

Meeting Purpose: Does the alternative to current practice meet the original purpose for which it was designed?

Marketing: Having identified a successful alternative to current practice we should engage in a coherent and sustained marketing strategy to promote its effective uptake.