Celebrating the joys of failure in life? That's what psychologist and innovation researcher Samuel West is doing with the Museum of Failure, an exhibition celebrating the biggest flops in consumer products and innovation.
Remember Sony Betamax's contentious battle and subsequent loss to VHS? Or the steeply-price and highly pandered face accessory, Google Glass? According to West, these items are an essential part of innovation, despite their less-than-stellar reputations.
"I've always been interested in research, experimentation, and the methods of corporate psychology," said Samuel West, the museum's founder and curator. "Honestly, I was just tired and fed up with the constant narrative of success that society loves to focus on. We're always looking for the next big thing, only striving for success. But failure is much more interesting if you ask me."
All of the items, whether failing from the get go or enjoying some success before fizzling out, act as a "cautionary tale of the failure to innovate and move forward," said West. "These companies failed to change their business model to keep up with industry and consumer demand which led to their demise."
West notes a perfect example of flaming failure with The Eastman Kodak Company. "The same year Kodak went bankrupt in 2012 for failing to adapt to digital technology was the same year Instagram was bought by Facebook for $1 billion," said West. "Isn't that incredibly ironic?"
With over 100 items for visitors to gawk at, the collection includes both popular and obscure failures including Colgate's Beef Lasagna meal, coffee-flavored Coca-Cola BlāK, diarrhea-inducing Olestra chips, the sexist disaster pen Bic For Her and Donald Trump's failed Monopoly copycat game "Trump."
Curating the items proved an interesting and tricky task as most items are no longer on the market. West scours websites like Craigslist or eBay for new items, but is mostly thankful for the large amount of donations they receive from everyday folks.
"About 40 to 50 percent of our current exhibit are donations which is really great," said West. "Many items are either hard to find or simply something we've never heard of since they've been lost in time, so the donations are really incredible."
Although the museum focuses on the idea of failure, West says the museum is actually anchored by a very positive ideology.
"I really hope visitors will walk away with the message that you have to accept failure if you want any progress," said West. "It's the idea that maybe failure isn't such a dangerous idea. It's really only money and hopefully this exhibit encourages more companies and people to take meaningful risks while embracing the necessity of failure."
The museum will be on view at the A+ D Architecture and Design Museum from Dec. 2 to Feb. 5. A permanent location resides in Sweden and a traveling exhibition will be touring internationally.
Take a sneak peek at the treasure trove of failures the museum has in store for visitors.