James Dyson is the inventor of the successful and now common Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner. I did a session yesterday on design thinking with a group of executive MBA's yesterday. One who had consulted to the company pointed out that Dyson -- supported by his wife's job as an art teacher -- took five years and 5127 failed prototype to develop on that worked. If failure sucks but instructs, that is a lot of learning. It also is an interesting case because it shows how difficult it is to make rational decisions in the innovation process. Certainly, say 4000 prototypes and 4 years into the adventrue, any reasonable person would have assumed that this was a failure, an extreme case of escalating commitment to a failed course of action. As I have written here before, James March described this aspect of creativity elegantly:
If you want to learn more about Dyson's quest, I suggest his autobiography, Against the Odds.