James Dyson: How to be different #4

Keep failing - it works
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The Independent Online

"I have not failed," said Thomas Edison (pictured below). "I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Edison's enterprising flair would have got him nowhere but for one thing - perseverance. In the end, his 10,000 flops are insignificant alongside his 1,093 US patents.

They include the dictaphone, the mimeograph, the stock ticker, the storage battery, the Vitascope (leading on to motion pictures), the carbon transmitter (leading to the telephone) and his joint invention of the light bulb.

Edison's other winning characteristic was his vow to invent only things that people would buy. As a young inventor with a family to support, he was driven to produce inventions that were commercial.

Even the great Edison had to put in a good deal of hard work and accept plenty of knockbacks before his inventions made money. He had no formal education and the odds were stacked against him from birth, but he never gave up. So why should the rest of us feel discouraged if our first stab at innovation fails, and if we take longer to get started than we hoped?

Never surrender. As Edison put it: "Many of life's failures are people who did not know how close they were to success when they gave up."

One reason inventions tend to take longer than you first imagine is that everything has to be tested, tested and tested again. And you must only test one thing at a time. It's called empirical testing and it takes time and patience.

It took me five years, 5,127 prototypes, occasional swearing and bangs and crashes, and a rollercoaster ride from euphoria to disappointment and back again, before my vacuum cleaner was ready for the market. Although none of my first 5,126 prototypes worked, each of them was a learning process in which I built up my knowledge so that - in due course - prototype 5,127 was a success.

That is why I say to any budding inventor or entrepreneur: "Carry on failing - it works."