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Against the Odds: An Autobiography 2nd Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1587991707
ISBN-10: 1587991705
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Dyson is an inventor and the founder of Dyson Appliances. He invented the Dual Cyclone, the country¿s biggest selling vacuum cleaner. He is also a board member of the Design Council. He lives in Malmesbury, Wiltshire.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Texere; 2 edition (April 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587991705
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587991707
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,158,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald B. Siano on October 1, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The story told here, an autobiography, is one of the most inspiring that I've read in a long time. Dyson is an inventor and industrial designer who has taken his bagless vacuum cleaner from the garage to a huge enterprise. I loved this story and wound up really admiring the man. His distinctive approach to industrial design, his perseverance and gutsy self confidence enabled him to show that even in the world of huge multinationals, with all their central research laboratories, there are still opportunities for the lone inventor to make it, big-time.

I especially enjoyed the part about the early development of the machine, in which he made something like one version per day for over three years, varying things one at a time, measuring everything to exhaustion, all the while sinking further and further into debt. Edisonian it was, but sometimes that is the only way--the quest for the quick breakthrough emphasized by modern industrial managers can be a real obstacle to progress. I've seen it at work first-hand.

The book is rather lavishly produced with ten pages of glossy photos, many of them in color, supplemented by many sketches and drawings. The big margins and the attractive typeface on acid-free paper combine to make a very pretty book, worth owning.

This is the sort of book that once you put it down, you feel better about the world, the striving of man-the-builder, and realize that, even in England, things can get better.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great story of a stubborn, possibly cantankerous, designer turned manufacturing entreprenur. It was a real page-turner and I couldn't put it down.

This Brit took on the vacuum sweeper industry worldwide and now is introducing washing machines that may be technologically superior -- just like his sweepers. He has invented and introduced several products to the world.

Here's what you can get from this book:

1) A humorous story of entrepreneurial struggle and then success,

2) Dyson's rules for product design,

3) Dyson's rules for start-ups for manufacturing companies,

4) Some great words to improve your vocabulary (he's British remember),

5) Lessons in patents and the lengths to which you will have to defend them,

6) How entrenched product manufacturers will buy companies to squelch a superior technology to keep it off the market,

7) How your wayward son who goes off to study art may actually end up richer than you.

8) How to protect yourself from unscrupulous competitors (are there any other kind?)

Most important of all are his rules for design and for startups.

His basic rule for coming up with new products goes like this:

Find a durable consumer product that every household buys. Find out what bugs people about this product. Use technology to dramatically improve its performance -- preferably find the technology in other industries. Look for new materials providing superior durability. Prototype, prototype, prototype. Test, test, test. Then design outward for style and ergonomics (Form follows function.) Don't listen to others. Don't hire consultants. Market and manufacture it yourself.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is subtitled "an autobiography," but it isn't really about James Dyson, the man. It is about James Dyson, the inventor and designer who conquered the vacuum cleaner market. The difference? Dyson includes everything that might explain his success as an inventor, but gives only limited attention to his personal or interior life. Dyson briefly mentions some crucial points, like the strain his ongoing travels put on his marriage, or his wonderment at his companies' many lawsuits, but if you're seeking a man's inside emotional story, this isn't it. However, if you're looking for an exciting account of an inventor who proceeds, as Dyson puts it, in an Edisonian fashion, read this book. We recommend it to anyone engaged in design, engineering, marketing or innovation. The stories it contains, especially the descriptions of inspiration or frustration - are refreshing in this theoretical age, as is his advice on creating and marketing innovative products. Dyson's book proves that a vital place still exists for individual vision and old-fashioned perseverance.
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"Against the odds" is an apropos title. What we now celebrate as the "overnight success" and "the genius" of Dyson products is anything but, and this is the book that tells this fascinating story. It took Dyson over a decade to turn the original "eureka" moment for his vacuum cleaner into a product on the market, which includes finding bank loans, years of day to day R&D, years of unsuccesful attemps at licensing deals, oh and half a dozen legal battles in between. Even just reading this story makes you wonder how James Dyson managed to get through it all.

This is a true entrepreneurial story, with all the ups and downs, and dozens of interesting insights. Dyson's perspective and attack on the state of British manufacturing and funding is in itself a must read for every entrepreneur. Additionally, we get a glimpse at his no-nonsense, "Edisonian" approach at innovation: don't worry about the experts, get to it, test one thing at a time, iterate, improve, rinse, repeat. It took Dyson 1000+ prototypes to arrive at his first vacuum cleaner.

This is a book that every existing or aspiring entrepreneur, designer, and engineer will find something in (spoiler: don't pick one, be all three). Great read.
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