James Dyson came up with an idea for a bagless vacuum cleaner — inspired by an industrial cyclone at a timber mill — in the late 1960s.
After five years of testing and more than 5,000 “mistakes”, or prototypes as engineers call them, his vacuum cleaner concept was ready to take to market.
But all the big brand manufacturers slammed doors in his face.
Their business model was selling vacuum cleaners and bags — which made them lots of money.
He had to eventually launch his vacuum cleaner himself – in 1993.
He became a billionaire.
It’s hard not to admire this guy. Think of the many rejections he had to face. Imagine having to deal with all the people who must have thought he was crazy.
“What’s important is that I didn’t stop at the first failure, the 50th, or the 5,000th,” he wrote in a news magazine. “I never will.”
Such persistence is incredible. How many times have we come up with promising ideas and keep working on them for years?
In my case I had an idea for a website similar to www.ideaaccelerator.co.za that I started in 2005 for entrepreneurs. But I packed in it after a year because of competing interests.
It was only in 2010 that I decided to start a new blog on the easier WordPress platform. Keeping the momentum for the first year was difficult but now it has taken on a life of its own.
Persistence, someone said, is to the character of people as carbon is to steel. It’s hard to define but so essential for bringing a product or service to life.
How often do we have ideas and just give up at the first obstacle? How far would you go in pursuing your idea for a product or service? Would you keep at your idea for several decades until you finally brought it to market? Could you keep going, refining your idea after 5,000 mistakes?
Look at it this way, each one of Dyson’s 5,000 mistakes actually involved coming up with a new idea each time. It’s a myth that innovation is one single event or flash of inspiration. You sometimes need to build ideas upon ideas as you refine your product or service for the market place.
It’s ironic that Dyson was forced to sue one of the companies that had rejected his design years back. Success leads to copycats.
Want to come up with and develop ideas of your own?
Tune into www.ideaaccelerator.co.za for ideas and articles.