Scott Maguire, Dyson
Scott Maguire, Global Engineering Director, Dyson
Is there a framework which Dyson uses to solve problems and create products?
No, I’m afraid not. The key thing is that we try to break it down into smaller chunks. The first thing is to know what problem it is that you’re trying to solve. Then we get a multidisciplinary bunch of engineers around the table, and we start talking about how we would solve that problem.
So everybody has a debate, and you could probably continue with that all day. But what we do at Dyson is we then make prototypes, so we’re able to work out if an idea is good or not. The quicker you can fail, the quicker you can get to the solution and solve the problem as well.
So it’s not a strike against their performance reviews if Dyson engineers fail at something?
Exactly the opposite. If you spent six months deliberating and thinking about everything in an abstract from and it doesn’t work, that’s a problem. But in reality, a lot of engineers can probably test their ideas within one week or two weeks — we’ve got some of the most advanced prototyping tools at all of our sites.
How do you balance between spending a lot of time experimenting versus deciding that enough time has been spent?
The interesting thing for Dyson is that we don’t follow technology fads. We build our products from the technology up and we take a long time about doing that. We have thousands of products that we’ve started and killed. We’ve probably launched only about sixty products in our whole history. So it’s a very small amount of products that we start that really make it.
And that’s because from Dyson’s perspective we are investing £$7 miilion into R&D every week. For us to make that sustainable, we need to make sure that the products, when they’re launched, are a step change above anything else. It has to revolutionize the category.
How would you define the word “innovation”?
We talked about the spirit of inventiveness quite a lot. Inventing new technologies and solving new problems, I think that’s how companies like Dyson progress, that’s how we make better technology and hopefully we excite our owners better as well.
So, we talk about inventiveness rather than innovation. There’s a lot of real hard work that goes into all innovations you see from Dyson or anywhere else. So getting grounded, rolling your sleeves up and getting in the lab and really trying to solve problems is what we see as inventing. I don’t know if that’s what other people call innovation, but we’re pretty much grounded in technology and that’s where we build up.