A couple of years ago someone asked me who my heroes were. Which people had influenced my way of thinking the most? There are actually quite a few, although almost none of them have anything to do with the information technology industry… I believe there is so much more to learn from people that are outside software development, like James Dyson. A renowned engineer and entrepreneur, so what can we as a software company learn from someone like James Dyson?
James Dyson has influenced my view on innovation more than most of my other heroes. This is best explained by himself, in this excellent fragment of an interview held by Edison Nation.
The way Dyson approaches innovation has fascinated me for a long time. His fame came from the vacuum cleaners and later the Air Blade, yet he has made many incredible innovations. Dyson is not afraid to toss out all the familiar rules and re-think the entire concept.
One of the most interesting, early innovations of Dyson is the Ball-Barrow. Yes, it is a wheel barrow, done differently.
The problems with a wheel barrow are obvious if you’ve ever used one. They tip over easily when they are heavily loaded for example. And for construction workers and gardeners especially, the stands are problematic. They sink into soft ground (e.g. fresh concrete, loose garden ground) easily. Not to mention the fact that construction remains (again, concrete) sticks to the wheel barrow easily both on the inside and the outside.
To combat these problems, Dyson threw out the whole concept of the wheel barrow and started from scratch. What he finally came up with is in ways similar but in a lot of ways completely different from the traditional wheel barrow. The ball provides much better stability under heavy load and it doesn’t sink into the ground easily.
The reservoir is made from plastic, to which concrete sticks much less than the metal that most wheel barrows are made of. The stands are replaced by a wider, plastic stand that increases stability and again avoids sticking to concrete.
Throw it all out!
In conclusion, the most important lesson I have learned from Dyson is twofold. If you want to truly improve a concept, be prepared to throw everything out. Then innovate one step at a time. Innovation is a process, not a single action.