The Museum of Failure: A Living Shrine to New Coke, the Ford Edsel, Google Glass & Other Epic Corporate Fails

All suc­cess­ful prod­ucts are alike; every unsuc­cess­ful prod­uct is unsuc­cess­ful in its own way. Or so a mod­ern-day Tol­stoy might find him­self inspired to write after a vis­it to the Muse­um of Fail­ure, a mov­able feast of flops which began last year in Hels­ing­borg, Swe­den and has now opened its doors on Hol­ly­wood Boule­vard in Los Ange­les. The Don­ald Trump board game, Apple’s New­ton, Noki­a’s N‑Gage, Ford’s Edsel, Col­gate Beef Lasagne, Harley-David­son Cologne, New Coke, Google Glass: these and oth­er shin­ing exam­ples of fail­ure appear in the videos about the muse­um at the top of the post and just below.

Con­sid­ered today, many of these prod­ucts, whether well-known or thor­ough­ly obscure, look hilar­i­ous­ly ill-con­ceived. But the Muse­um of Fail­ure’s founder, a psy­chol­o­gist named Samuel West, does have high praise for some of the prod­ucts he’s col­lect­ed in his insti­tu­tion.

As you’ll find out on a vis­it there, though, they’ve all got at least one fatal flaw — a design prob­lem, bad tim­ing, mis­judg­ment of the mar­ket, falling into the cracks of exist­ing offer­ings — that drove con­sumers away. You can’t say that any of them did­n’t take a risk, but risks, by their very nature, burn out more often than they pay off.

“Why do I have all these fail­ures?” asks West in his TED Talk just above. “The point of hav­ing the muse­um is that we can learn from these fail­ures. I want us to start to admit our fail­ures as com­pa­nies, as indi­vid­u­als, so we can learn from it.” Amer­i­ca’s rel­a­tive lack of cul­tur­al stigma­ti­za­tion of fail­ure often gets cit­ed among the rea­sons for the coun­try’s rep­u­ta­tion for inno­va­tion and eco­nom­ic dynamism, but there, as any­where else, an increased will­ing­ness not just to fail but to bet­ter under­stand the nature of indi­vid­ual fail­ures would­n’t go amiss. Noth­ing suc­ceeds like suc­cess, so the say­ing goes, but the fas­ci­na­tion that has built around the Muse­um of Fail­ure so far sug­gests that we have much to gain from its oppo­site as well.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Thomas Edison’s Creepy Talk­ing Dolls: An Inven­tion That Scared Kids & Flopped on the Mar­ket

Blade Run­ner: The Pil­lar of Sci-Fi Cin­e­ma that Siskel, Ebert, and Stu­dio Execs Orig­i­nal­ly Hat­ed

Why Do So Many Peo­ple Adore The Room, the Worst Movie Ever Made? A Video Explain­er

Meet the World’s Worst Orches­tra, the Portsmouth Sin­fo­nia, Fea­tur­ing Bri­an Eno

Paulo Coel­ho on The Fear of Fail­ure

“Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Bet­ter”: How Samuel Beck­ett Cre­at­ed the Unlike­ly Mantra That Inspires Entre­pre­neurs Today

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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