Summary of Against the Odds

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Against the Odds book summary
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  • Innovative
  • Applicable


This book is subtitled "an autobiography," but it isn't really about James Dyson, the man. It is about James Dyson, the inventor and designer who conquered the vacuum cleaner market. The difference? Dyson includes everything that might explain his success as an inventor, but gives only limited attention to his personal or interior life. Dyson briefly mentions some crucial points, like the strain his ongoing travels put on his marriage, or his wonderment at his companies' many lawsuits, but if you're seeking a man's inside emotional story, this isn't it. However, if you're looking for an exciting account of an inventor who proceeds, as Dyson puts it, in an Edisonian fashion, read this book. recommends it to anyone engaged in design, engineering, marketing or innovation. The stories it contains, especially the descriptions of inspiration or frustration - are refreshing in this theoretical age, as is his advice on creating and marketing innovative products. Dyson's book proves that a vital place still exists for individual vision and old-fashioned perseverance.

About the Author

James Dyson studied design at the Royal College of Art in England, but is better known as the inventor of the Sea Truck, the Ballbarrow and the Dyson Dual Cyclone vacuum cleaner, his greatest success.



Early Influences on an Innovator

James Dyson sets out by explaining, "I have been a misfit throughout my professional life, and that seems to have worked to my advantage." Throughout his childhood and school years, Dyson learned that, "Misfits are not born or made; they make themselves." Innovators work with or against their families and society, and work with the education they receive, though not always as the educators intend. Misfit though he may have been, these factors definitely shaped Dyson. His father taught at a school in Norfolk, and Dyson had free run of the school grounds after hours. This freedom made him different and isolated; both factors became more intense when his father died. James was nine years old.

Dyson's family sent him to boarding school, where he tried to fit in by attempting various extracurricular activities. He undertook the bassoon, but stopped when he felt constricted by the British school system's practice of dividing artistic pursuits into formal levels. James then tried running, something he could practice on his own and improve by hard work. He won races, but eventually quit running because he didn't enjoy it. He tried painting, ...

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