Praising Failure: James Dyson Talks Vacuum's 5,127 Prototypes

Sir James Dyson, inventor of perhaps the most recognisable consumer vacuum on the market today, is completely comfortable with failure. He’s good at it—failure I mean—but most great inventors are.

So it’s with that in mind that we turn to Dyson’s Wired column that was floating around this weekend. In it, Dyson breaks down the creative process that went into creating the bag-free, “cyclone technology” design, including the 15 years and 5,127 prototypes it took before the first model, DC01, would ultimately prove successful in 1993.

Fifteen years! For a vacuum! And a lot happened during those years before the DC01 finally gave up th bag-less, dirt-sucking goods:

There are countless times an inventor can give up on an idea. By the time I made my 15th prototype, my third child was born. By 2,627, my wife and I were really counting our pennies. By 3,727, my wife was giving art lessons for some extra cash. These were tough times, but each failure brought me closer to solving the problem. It wasn’t the final prototype that made the struggle worth it. The process bore the fruit. I just kept at it.

And bore fruit it did, in spades. The design saved Dyson from bankruptcy and generated a billion-dollar business. Portable vacs, hand-drying blades in restrooms, trendy commercials with vacuums rolling around on yellow balls—the fruits of Dyson’s failure are on display all around. [Wired]