Success Comes to the Museum of Failure
By Kristi Robinson
Like a little voice whispering in your ear “you can’t do it”, the fear of failure does a great job in keeping us in our comfort zone. The concept that failure is something to be embraced and can be part of the journey to success is something Swedish psychologist Dr. Samuel West has made his aim to share with the world, and he has done it in absolutely the most amusing way. In his research he found the biggest problem wasn’t that people didn’t know how to be creative or innovative; it was that they simply didn’t try for fear of failure.
Knowing that people needed to accept setbacks to make progress, Samuel wanted to communicate this in a way that resonated. After a trip to Croatia where he says he had his Eureka moment, the idea for the Museum of Failure (MOF) was born. In the summer of 2017 the tiny museum opened in Helsingborg, Sweden. Much to the surprise of Samuel, before the museum had even opened, it exploded with media coverage. The NY Times, Washington Post, BBC, and practically every media outlet in the world was interested in the Museum of Failure. He explains that it was so weird having a tiny museum in the bad part of a small insignificant city in Sweden, that hadn’t even opened yet, be world-famous. In the beginning Samuel contacted the companies whose products he wanted to exhibit. Maybe it’s the stigma associated with a failed product, but he admitted that nobody wanted to work with him, so he bought the items off the internet or wherever he could find them. Now that the museum is established and has toured the world with an additional three mini pop-up Museums of Failure, Samuel receives at least a couple items from companies every month requesting to be a part of it.
The MOF in Shanghai: a model of the DeLorean, and Atari’s ET, considered one of the worst video games of all time. Photo © MOF
The Nintendo Power Glove, Trump Board Game, the DeLorean car featured in the Back to the Future movie series, Nokia’s taco shaped N-Gage phone and gaming console – with over 100 products in the Museum of Failure, the items range from total wacky to something that seemed like a cool idea, but just wasn’t. In 2013 Google released their high-tech version of a pair of glasses, Google Glass. The glasses had a screen on it allowing the user to connect to the internet via voice control, but the best – or perhaps worst – part was that the glasses had a video camera on it and could secretly record people. The term ‘glasshole’ was used for anyone who sported this wearable piece of espionage. Amidst privacy concerns, Google Glass met their fate in 2014.
Google Glass. Photo © Sofie Lindberg
The Museum showcases some wonderful Swedish failures too, like the Itera bicycle. Designed by former Volvo engineers in the early 1980s, it was an attempt to modernize the bike. Aside from being expensive, the plastic bike easily broke, and the frame wasn’t rigid enough making it too wobbly to ride. Another Swedish failure from the 80’s is Ikea’s inflatable sofa. Designed to be inflated with a hair dryer, unforeseen problems quickly surfaced. When the hair dryer’s hot air cooled, the sofa shrunk. Other dilemmas were that the plastic material the sofa was made of meant it was a dust magnet; and the furniture was so light that if a window was open and a breeze blew in, the sofa could be tossed around the room. For more fun failures and news about upcoming shows visit museumoffailure.com.
The Itera bike at the Museum of Failure in Hollywood. Photo © Jake Ahles