"Failures are interesting." How this project was sparked by a radio show featuring a vacuum cleaner inventor.

In fall of 2013 I was listening to an interview with Sir James Dyson, who invented Dyson vacuums (after 5,127 tries). Dyson was talking about failure and how encouraging his engineers to try new processes and designs had produced two things: failure and innovation. He went on to explain that he had come to prize failure and wished to encourage it more in his company. Known for driving innovations in bagless vacuums, Dyson had turned failure into innovation like many other inventors before him. After all, WD-40 is named such only because when Dr. Norm Larsen was inventing it, he experienced 39 failures before his 40th try produced the desired effect.

Listen to the interview with Sir James Dyson at Science Friday.

Dyson’s charge to fail and fail often resonated with me as an educator, and prompted me to begin exploring how I may encourage my students to try new and “risky” design solutions in my Interaction Design courses. As I continue to test and develop experiences designed to help students give themselves permission to risk (and possibly fail), I will post my findings and insights on this site.

Dennis Cheatham

Associate Professor, Communication Design

Miami University

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