The Museum of Failure
THE MUSEUM OF FAILURE
The Museum of Failure has finally made its way to the Left Coast. For every successful product corporations have proudly put on the market, there have been thousands of failures. MOF explores these misses, giving visitors a fascinating insight into the risky business of innovation. Peep our chat with the Museum's curator - Sam West - for some game changing POV's on the art of success (and failure) and how he thinks we can all learn to embrace failure with grace.
SS: You first opened the gallery in Europe. Are there cultural differences on the perception of failure? What attitude do you think Americans will adopt when experiencing the museum? Do you think Americans will view failure differently than other cultures?
SW: Europeans think that Americans are much better at accepting failure than they are. So there is a sort of failure-envy going on. European business leaders look up to Silicon Valley’s “fail forward” attitude. While many American start-ups do seem to embrace risk and failure - they are not any better at learning from failure.
SS: How did this come to fruition? What inspired you to curate The Museum of Failure?
SW: I got tired of all the success stories that surround us. In business and every other aspect of life - we are supposed to get inspired by successful shiny happy people with unnaturally white teeth, as if consuming stories about them somehow magically rubs off on us. I wanted to give some much deserved attention to failure - the neglected aspect of success and progress.
SS: What are your thoughts on the purpose of this installation?
SW: The aim of the museum is to communicate that failure is essential to all progress. And I think we’ve managed quite well to stimulate discussions on a greater acceptance of failure.
SS: How did you pull all of these items together? How long did it take?
SW: It took about a year of intensive work. Once the museum got global media coverage it became much easier since people from all over the world donate items.
SS: Have you observed any common threads in the majority of these failed products?
SW: I wish I could identify the secret to avoiding failure… One theme is that products/services that are over-hyped often fail. Many organizations want their ads, promotional campaigns to “go viral” - but unless you have an truly awesome product the hype can do more damage than good.
SS: What do you want the takeaway to be for people to be after they attend
SW: That failure isn't so frightening. Everyone that takes meaningful risks or leaves their comfort zone is most likely going to fail. As long as people don’t die or get hurt, then failure is not really anything to be so terrified of.
SS: Whats your view on “failure?”
SW: Failure is a deviation from expected or desired results.
SS: Are you ever surprised by the things that fail versus the ones that succeed?
SW: Yes. Quite often actually. It is not always the best product that becomes the most successful. And there are so many different ways a product can fail on the market. New coke tasted better than original/classic coka cola. But the product was a massive flop.
SS: This edition of the SSR is about Victory. To you, what is the key to success?
SW: To accept failure.
SS: What is your personal favourite “failure” in the museum?
SW: I still like Olestra. The calorie-free fat substitute from 1996. Despite huge investments and research it still flopped because people ate more than the recommended serving size and the potato chip made with Olestra became most know for causing “anal leakage"
SS: Do you have a spot waiting in the gallery for lady Doritos?
SW: Yes - for sure!!!!