COMPASS MAGAZINE #10
COMPASS MAGAZINE #10

THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE Sir James Dyson, CEO, Dyson Ltd.

SIR JAMES DYSON is the founder and chief executive of Dyson Ltd., makers of the Dyson Ball line of bagless vacuums, plus blade-free fans, near-instantaneous hand dryers and other innovative products.

China has long been the home of cheap mass-assembled goods. But now it no longer wants to be seen as the workshop of the world. It wants to become the world leader in invention, patents and ideas. The Chinese government knows that the real profit is in developing world-class technology.

China processed a quarter of the world’s patents in 2011, the first nation to surpass the USA as the world’s leading patent application processor. If China continues to file patents and uphold the validity of patents, these exceptions will become the norm.

I brought my engineering foundation to Chicago, the site of Dyson’s US headquarters, to do just that. Our aim is to inspire young people to think differently, to make mistakes and invent. We do this in a variety of ways – rapid-prototyping workshops, disassembly kits, after-school clubs.

Before patents can be filed, though, they need to be invented. China and India are doing a good job of this, graduating nearly 1 million engineering students annually. The United States and United Kingdom are far behind, so it’s down to us to spark curiosity in engineering, to encourage the bright young minds of the future.

But most importantly, we introduce students to the design process and show them there’s far more to engineering than calculations and good grades.

One third of the people at Dyson are engineers and scientists in fields such as fluid, mechanical, electrical, thermal, chemical, acoustic and software engineering. Our R&D investment has quadrupled over the past five years. We now invest more than £1.5 million each week in research and development. 

“OUR AIM IS TO INSPIRE YOUNG PEOPLE TO THINK DIFFERENTLY, TO MAKE MISTAKES AND INVENT.” 

SIR JAMES DYSON FOUNDER AND CEO OF DYSON LTD.

Dyson engineers start with a frustration. Then they get to work brainstorming ideas. They’re not bound to any methodology – in fact, the riskier the better. We call it wrong thinking, having an idea so off-base that it snowballs into something that just might work.

Once a winning idea is created, it must be produced. Manufacturing is a complex business. Improving technology, higher rates of production and shifting supply chains have made it cheaper to make products, but harder to produce good ones. But this is changing. Manufacturing is going independent. Breaking rules. Simplifying processes and cutting out the middle man through new forms of production financing.

Invention also is being democratized. 3D printing, for example, is coming of age. As rapid manufacturing develops, firms can replicate parts they previously would have built expensive tools to produce. For start-ups, the more immediate use for 3D printing is building and testing prototypes. It’s an essential part of the invention process and will let inventors develop and tweak their designs using computer-aided design and then create a model in just a few hours. Many manufacturers, including Dyson, already do this.

New ideas advance society and create growth. Creativity leads to novel technology like electric vehicles and cleaner engines. Aspiring designers need our support to turn bright ideas into products the world wants to buy. 

by SIR JAMES DYSON Back to top
by SIR JAMES DYSON
  • SIR JAMES DYSON is the founder and chief executive of Dyson Ltd., makers of the Dyson Ball line of bagless vacuums, plus blade-free fans, near-instantaneous hand dryers and other innovative products. (Photo courtesy of Dyson Ltd.)