The Museum of Failure: What Can We Learn From it?

The Museum of Failure, as the name suggests, is a museum housing a collection of products and services that fell flat on their face as far as their success with the public goes.

Established in 2017 in Sweden, the concept was the brainchild of Samuel West, an organisational psychologist (not the actor) who was inspired by an even more bizarre concept during his visit to Zagreb, Croatia – the Museum of Broken Relationships.

The Museum of Failure drew international attention and its popularity has seen it make its way in different cities around the world as a pop-up museum.

It provides product flops with the 15 minutes of fame they never got to have in their heyday. The collection includes a fair share of items that were once billed the next big thing, a good deal of them a creation by some of the most recognisable brands in the world.

The Failed Inventions

Anyone remember Google Glass? If you are wondering why it has taken forever to officially be available to the public, well, that’s probably because it got shelved in the Museum of Failure.

Harley Davidson, one of the most iconic motorcycle brands in the world, never thought taking a different turn by launching the Harley Davidson Cologne would be a risk. After all, it’s a famous and well-respected brand so the potential for a company-branded perfume to be a hit among bikers and fans of the brand would be high, right? Wrong.

BiC, the disposable consumer product manufacturer best known for their ball pens and razors, came up with this idea to introduce pink and purple pens for women. They called it BiC for Her. The pen, which you can see on a famous episode on Ellen, proved a marketing faux pas that eventually saw it end up at, yup, the failed museum.

There was also the Rejuvenique Electric Facial Mask, a creepy looking mask that Monat promised would rejuvenate the face by shocking your face to stimulate the muscles. But this belonged more to the Museum of Horror than on dressing tables, so it is no surprise that it has since gone defunct.

There are a myriad items in the collection like these that became major flops. You can find them on the official website which continues to add to the collection with each epic fail.

Green Heinz ketchup, Colgate frozen lasagne, Crystal Pepsi (a clear soda), the BlaK coffee beverage by Coca-Cola, fat-free pringles…the list goes on.

Brilliant Idea

The whole idea behind the creation of the Museum of Failure, according to the website, was to provide insight into the ‘risky business of innovation’, noting that the crazier the idea the better.

Actually when you think about the museum concept, you can’t help but think it was a brilliant idea no matter how you choose to look at it.

The museum not only provides a great reference point for brand marketing and innovation departments, but the products themselves are a paragon of human creativity and ingenuity, their failure notwithstanding.

Some will call it madness. Others see it as creative art. Free thinking.

Whichever side of the divide you stand, one thing that we can all agree on is the fact that the human race has got to the point it is at today through hits and misses.

Never at any one point has it been a smooth curve on the graph. The peaks and troughs are but inevitable, no matter the field, each in all its variants. Science. Medicine. Engineering. Business. Technology. Yada yada yada.

It would be apt at this point to bring up Thomas Edison, but some choice words from Jules Verne, a historical French novelist, would ring true irrespective of field:

‘Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.’

Indeed. It is only through failure that we learn what works and what doesn’t. And that’s how creations get better.

Just the other day, Samsung, through the relentless quest to be the industry benchmark, released a ground-breaking phone aptly christened the Galaxy Fold. The futuristic smartphone has a design that allows you to fold it vertically through the middle.

But just before it was officially launched, the phone was first released to reviewers. And the feedback was anything but glowing. The phone was found to have embarrassing design quirks, leading to its recall. And back to the drawing board again the company went.

Lessons from the Museum of Failure

While it may seem like a depressing idea where the nostalgic go to hang out in melancholy at twilight, the Museum of Failure can actually teach us important lessons at a personal level.

For one, we learn that we cannot gain anything by not exploring our ideas. You need to be willing to take the plunge and get your ideas out there. It is only through trying that we know for sure if that million-dollar idea had potential or not.

What if the Harley Davidson perfume would have proved a major hit with the masses? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

When we fail, it is not like all is lost. There is the knowledge that we gain through failing, as Thomas Edison would categorically tell you. We learn what works and what does not, and how we can make adjustments that help us achieve the success we desire, albeit on a more solid foundation.

Anyone who has failed at some point in life and gone on to rise from the ashes will tell you nothing can replace the lessons learned through failure. Just ask around. Failure allows us to look at things from a different prism, gaining an invaluable experience that we otherwise could miss.

It is painful, but at the same time it provides us with an opportunity to reflect, therefore gaining a deeper understanding of life. Experience is the best teacher, they say.

Failure also teaches us that there is always room for improvement. By confronting our mistakes head on, the insightful feedback we glean from them gives us, like Samsung, a platform through which we can go back to the drawing board and make improvements. Failure isn’t the final nail in the coffin for our ideas, goals or dreams.

As Roy T. Bennett says:

‘Failure is a bend in the road, not the end of the road. Learn from failure and keep moving forward.’

In truth, though, this would not be possible without a positive mindset. It is in our nature to beat ourselves up when we make mistakes. But learn to view them as a lesson and things are bound to change for the better.

As well, owning up to our mistakes is never a bad thing. That’s the only way we can improve. Sometimes, we may clutch on straws when we fail, and come up with all sorts of excuses.

But by acknowledging our mistakes and looking at the situation from a glass-half-full perspective, the insightful feedback helps us highlight the faults in neon yellow, setting us up for success in future.

This too, requires that positive attitude.

Life Goes on

Let’s face it, failure is a tough pill to swallow. It can knock the wind right out of your sails, especially if it is something you really, really yearned for. You feel like the world is crumbling around you. You can’t even fathom how you’ll get past this.

But look, there is always a lesson or two to be learned from these situations that leave you on the floor. And it is up to you to glean what you can from them.

The world does not stop turning if things don’t work out the way you imagined them.

Sometimes, it can be hard to pick ourselves up, true, but at one point or another, we really need to. It is only to our detriment if we keep fixated on the failure.

You might need some time out to recollect yourself. But don’t forget that at the end of the day, life moves on. And so should you.

 

 

Jillian Haslam Bio

Jillian is a Motivational Speaker and a coach with distinction, and has had a 20 year career in banking, including working with executives at board level. Bank of England. RBS, Nova Nordisk. McDonalds and The University of Cambridge are some of the names on her impressive list of clients.

Born and raised in abject poverty in Calcutta – Jillian is a truly inspirational and professional keynote speaker. She uses her experience and motivational stories to inspire others to face their fears using the power of resilience, something she calls “He Irrepressible Mind.”. With her motivational words and her warmth, she engages and empathises with her audience. She has received some of the most amazing testimonials from Corporates, universities & schools alike. To review some of these, please visit https://jillianhaslam.com/testimonials/.

Aside from being a successful businesswoman, philanthropist, and conference speaker, she is a published author “Indian.English”. An inspirational story about her life, of finding the road to success, and how she utilises her wisdom and vision is a story that will make anyone take action in their lives.