One of the easiest ways to gauge the culture of innovative in an organization is to see how that organization deals with failure. If unchecked, failure carries a stigma that can paralyze companies from trying new things.
This summer, a Swedish clinical psychologist named Samuel West opened up a pop-up “Museum of Failure” in the town of Helsingborg. The museum is dedicated to innovation misfires. On display are flame-outs like Heinz “Green Sauce” Ketchup, Colgate frozen lasagne, Harley-Davidson cologne, the Apple Newton, and Google Glass. Some of these are cringe-worthy and others were just ahead of their time.
As Samuel put the goal of the museum in an NYT article:
“All the literature is obsessively focused on success, but 80 to 90 percent of innovations actually fail. Why don’t these failures get the attention they actually deserve?
“The purpose of the museum is to show that innovation requires failure. If you are afraid of failure, then we can’t innovate. I want to encourage organizations to be better at learning from failures — not just ignoring them and pretending they never happened.”
Many of the visitors to the Museum of Failure have been group tours from companies. I think it would be healthy for organizations to create their own internal museums of failure, to showcase what didn’t work in an effort to pave the way to what does.
As Samuel said:
“I really hope that you see that these mega-brands that everybody respects, they screw up. I hope that makes you feel less apprehensive about learning something new. If you’re developing a new skill, trying to learn a new language or create something new, you’re going to fail. Don’t be ashamed of it. Let’s learn from these failures, instead of ignoring them.”
Following are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:
“Failed Innovation“ November 2010
“Innovation Funnel“ March 2011
“8 Types of Innovation“ May 2016
8 CommentsJoin the Discussion
More or less the reality! if you are willing to learn from failures then there is no way you lose. Hence you either win or learn!
Sam Klaidman says
I was one of the few who tried the Heinz “Green Sauce” Ketchup. My then teen age daughter nearly threw up on the brisket and, even today, will not let me forget that nasty experience.
Thanks for reminding me.
PS – love your cartoons
Dave S says
Tom, you really nailed it this week – great cartoon!
Books and articles on ‘successes’ are short/practical. ‘Stuff ups’ would just be too long. I’m in ‘marketing analytics’. I’d reckon of every 100 bits of work, 99 can be labelled a ‘stuff up’ in some way. Many analytics stuff ups are not seen as such by the person/s paying for it. It has been proposed those funding analytics are complicit in most stuff ups. Will the ‘average stuff up rate’ improve soon? I doubt it, as more and more neophytes are seduced by ‘agorithmic magic’.
Doug McFarlane says
Tom, you are truly the Gary Larson of marketooning! I thoroughly enjoy your weekly forays to the far side of all things marketing.
Thann Auttanukune says
The cartoon is awesome 😉
It’d be great if there is a refreshment of this book
failure is the mother of next success,but success is the father of next sucess. so each of them are important.
Robin 2 says says
failure is the father of next success,but success is the mother of next sucess. so each of them are important.