How to Create the Next Big Thing

Find inspiration outside your office. Great ideas don’t come from staring at a drawing board. Get out and look at things. When an idea comes, write it down and play with it until it works. Don’t sit and expect ideas to come.

Think about the things you use every day. Although it is harder to improve a mature product, it’s worth a try. If you’re successful, there’s no need to create a new market. Try out products and list things you don’t like about them. “I found about 20 things wrong with my Hoover Junior at the first attempt,” he says.

Don’t let “market research” get you down. Test and retest your product and believe only the evidence of your own eyes, not of formulas or other people’s opinions, Dyson advises. You may have to fly in the face of public opinion—and market research.

Keep making improvements. Constantly rethink and upgrade every aspect and function of your product, never being satisfied until you have solved every problem. Do that, Dyson says, and you can be sure of outperforming the opposition. The only way to keep possession of your invention is to keep strengthening it.

Allow the form to follow the function. Think about style only once your technology is perfected. Then be different for its own sake. Then make it orange and red, or pink and lavender, or silver and gray. Go further; there is nothing wrong with making the consumer laugh, Dyson believes. For the very first publicity photos for the Dual Cyclone, Dyson took shots of his wife, Deirdre, and his son, Sam, pushing the vacuum around the  garden.

Muster all your stamina and conviction. Developing and selling a product will take longer than you ever imagined. “Ten years of development? Do you fancy that? And then negotiations on a knife edge, a shoestring, and hanging by a thread? It will take balls.”

Do it yourself. It’s OK to be a control freak when it comes to your product. From your first idea, through research and development, testing, production, sales and marketing, and finally into the homes of consumers, your product “is most likely to succeed if the original visionary sees it through.”

Adapted from Against the Odds: An Autobiography by James Dyson.

James Dyson is an ever-tinkering engineer. Read his story, from the November 2013 issue, on


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