Strategy Decisions

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“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” — Thomas A. Edison, prolific inventor

The starting narrative to the James Dyson case can be considered by the symbiotic relationship of entrepreneurial vision and innovation, which lead towards the first domestic bagless vacuum cleaner that caused a paradigm shift in vacuum technology to world consumers. The assignment will conduct an analysis from this revolutionary narrative’s starting point and onto its eventual success. This will be discussed further by examining Dyson’s most profound decision making and strategic choices undertaken during the development of his most successful product ranges; brand and current on-going ventures. The research conducted into Dyson will be under-pinned with a strong academic response through relevant strategic and decision making theories and perspectives taken from the strategic-management and entrepreneurial research field within current existing literature.

James Dyson, to date one of Britain’s most profound industrial designers and innovators (Williams, 1996) can be considered a principle example of an entrepreneur who has taken high risk strategies combined with innovative thought. During the late-seventies, he managed to contrive the idea of using industrial cyclone technology to replace the existing anachronistic, unchanged vacuum cleaner incumbents abounded by Hoover and Electrolux appliances. These were the main corporate suppliers to world consumers in the market at the time (Mathiason, 2000). Through frustration over the suction performance of these existing machines, caused mainly by clogging of the bag, Dyson identified a gap in the market where his invention of the cyclonic bagless cleaner would go on to create greater added value to consumers over what already existed (Dyson, 2002).

Before analysing the decisions and strategic approaches undertaken by James Dyson, it is essential to consider and gain an appropriate understanding of how different types of entrepreneurs can be distinguished. This allows us to identify how the Dyson appliances Ltd venture has functioned alongside the disparate factors underlying his success. There are several classification schemes for entrepreneur and ventures in the literature; however Landau’s (1982) classification model brings together the proposed characteristics of innovation and risk taking together (Tang, 1998). The quadrant James Dyson shapes into is the operator of a true entrepreneur; where innovation combines with high risk. According to Whickam (2010), all innovation, by its nature introduces risk; and these entrepreneurs must find a way to accept it if they are to challenge it. However, by understanding their innovation and belief – as Dyson has from the beginning, efficacious entrepreneurs are capable of minimising and managing the risks towards strategies for success.

By Dyson’s pragmatism of true entrepreneurialism and radical innovation into the vacuum cleaner industry, he has contributed to the neo-classical economic theory and process of ‘creative destruction’ (Schumpeter, 1934; Abernathy and Utterbeck, 1976). Providing a metaphorical example, Francis and Bessant (2004) outline the environment within which organisations operate is normally stable, and there may be some rough ‘water’. However, the overall outline of the sea is clear and the mature and leading corporates can navigate the course with their existing products profitably – with some holding better market shares than others; the rules of the game staying the same. This is clearly evident of Hoover’s conglomerate share in the vacuum cleaner market prior to Dyson’s innovative inception. Once this framework is dislocated and the rules of the game is changed by a created opportunity, it challenges the existing players to reframe what they are doing in the light of the new conditions introduced (Foster and Kaplan, 2002; Hamel, 2002). This is the principle leitmotif of Schumpeter’s (1934)...
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