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Against the Odds: An Autobiography 2nd Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
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. You can learn any subject in 6 months (I think that's a little quick but the point is well made). Keep improving (Japanese style Kaisen) once you have developed your new product (he's developed many improved models once he went into production).
I really enjoyed this book and recommend it heartedly. I wondered though if Dyson wasn't a bit too cantankarous for his own good. I often wondered why he ended up in so many lawsuits and business deals gone awry. Were all his competitors ruthless? Or was he difficult to establish business relationships with? We will never know, and perhaps it's not that important. But there's lots to learn by reading this book. I understand he has another book, self-published, just on the design and invention aspects and I hope to get that book also. I'll check with the wife to see if we need another sweeper. He says they really suck. In fact it sucks up to three times more than competitors. Well, that's his humor not mine.
This book should be required reading at all business schools.
Sugar Land, TX
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.
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.