james dyson on ‘why failure doesn’t suck’

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Fast Company recently published Failure Does Not Suck, an interview with Sir James Dyson, who spent 15 years inventing the world’s best-selling vacuum cleaner, among other paradigm-altering housewares. Here’s a potent snippet:

You once described the inventor’s life as “one of failure.” How so?

I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure. I’ve always thought that schoolchildren should be marked by the number of failures they’ve had. The child who tries strange things and experiences lots of failures to get there is probably more creative.

Not all failures lead to solutions, though. How do you fail constructively?

We’re taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that’s very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It’s exciting, actually. To me, solving problems is a bit like a drug. You’re on it, and you can’t get off. I spent seven years on our washing machine [which has two drums, instead of one].

Dyson’s got a lot of insights into the creative process; it’s worth reading parts 1 and 2 of the interview.
via Kottke

One Response to james dyson on ‘why failure doesn’t suck’

  1. Cynthia A. 06.28.2012 at 7:32am #

    Wouldn’t it be amazing if school children could be graded on how creative and willing to experiment they are, rather than by how well they can sit and take a standardized test?

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