Andy Capper: Why I like the Dyson Zone
Dyson was once a brand predominantly known for their high-powered vacuums. Although these days, beauty lovers may identify them as the innovators for the coveted hair tool Dyson Air Wrap, and now it seems, air-purifying headphones.
I’ve read all sorts of points of view and hyperbole around Dyson’s ‘Zone’, and it’s generated more Marmite opinions than any recent innovations that I can think of. For me, however, most comments miss the point of why this should be celebrated, April Fool or not.
Yes, it looks a bit weird (I too chuckled at the Batman Bane memes), but that’s often the case with the emergence of new tech that will ultimately instigate new behaviours. In the space of only 15 years, no one finds it comical that we walk around glued to our smart phones, heads down like lemmings on busy streets, checking emails, maps or the latest social media. I’m sure there would be smirks, sniggers and much eye-rolling if our 20 year younger selves could see us now?
The fact is we take on board new technologies quite rapidly, and forget life without them equally quickly. We should in fact celebrate Dyson’s innovation in the context of the bigger picture.
Some positive take-aways from this recent innovation:
- The contents of the air we breathe and air quality have been somewhat top-of-mind over the last few years for obvious reasons. Surely a device that looks to tackle that is worth considering. It’s only a short mental hop to this from the mask wearing behaviour that became mandatory during the pandemic.
- It’s a British owned company (yes, I know, with manufacturing and headquarters in Singapore) launching a cutting edge product – we need more UK companies with their fingers on the pulse to keep us at the heart of innovation, particularly as many of our technology jewels have been sold off. US takeovers of UK tech companies increased 50% in 2021 to 130 companies!!! As a largely service economy, we need to retain and build the training and expertise to develop cutting edge skillsets.
- The form factor has been criticised, but you only need look back at the fuss over the original Dyson upright vacuum which now looks positively prehistoric compared to the hand held digital versions of today. The 6 year prototyping process has already seen the design evolve from backpack size, to snorkel, and now its current form. Does anyone believe that’s what we’ll be looking at in 10 years’ time as the technology matures?
- I’m sure it’ll be prohibitively expensive for many, but cutting edge technologies by their very definition are costly. The first CD players, flat screen TVs and smart phones all started out as the preserve of the affluent few, but became affordable and common place as demand grew, components value engineered and produced at high volume. If history is anything to go by, the cost will likely decrease in years to come.
- It demonstrates what a company can do when the bottom line is not the only driving force. Rather than focus on short-term profitability, it can explore and project forward, without the risk of investor revolt. Don’t we need more companies with this vision? We’re only going to solve the challenges of our time by innovating our way out of them and that means focusing further forward than the next quarter.
- Sure, it may not succeed, but innovation is at the core of Dyson’s DNA. Look up ‘innovation’ and the dictionary uses words like ‘transformation’ and ‘revolution’. These aren’t achieved without cul-de-sacs and setbacks (there’s a perceived wisdom that one learns more from failure than success). Dyson’s history is littered with products that have failed – the ball barrow, the washing machine and its electrical vehicle never got off the ground. And there’s clear lessons to be learned from each one that they have applied to both their business and products – will that be the case here?
- Are Dyson driving a new category of wearable devices that other brands will jump on as it gains traction? Afterall, it’s not always the first to market that reaps the rewards. There’s plenty of examples of technology companies (Apple have perfected this approach) who don’t birth new technology but tune it and normalise it. Is this what we’re seeing here?
It can be a challenge to nudge ingrained human behaviour even a little, so when companies like Dyson lead the way and often prove there are markets and consumer desire (and a willingness to pay a premium) they create a groundswell to inspire others to follow. In the UK we should be celebrating innovation in all its forms.