We all know that there are museums to suit every taste and every intellectual curiosity. There are museums dedicated to chocolate, romance, spy-craft and even knitting. You name it and there’s probably a museum for it (or soon to be).
Last month in Sweden, an organizational psychologist named Dr. Samuel West opened the doors to what he calls The Museum of Failure, a physical tribute to products and ideas that have flopped. There are currently 60 such products in the collection, but West assures would-be fans that there are many more to come.
Among the current crop of exhibits are Harley-Davidson fragrance for men; “Her,” a line of Bic pens exclusively for women; and Coke Blak, a Coca-Cola product infused with coffee. And then there’s Google Glass—once a beacon of opportunity for the eyewear marketplace, now relegated to the scrapheap of “what might have beens.”
The optical industry is rife with similar products that rose and fell over the years—The Corlon Lens, a hybrid of glass and plastic that served as the medium for a lighter weight, photochromic lens product; a device to make cosmetically tinted contact lenses right in your office; eyewear with small perfume reservoirs on the temples that would emit fragrance when perspiration activated them; an eyeglass holder that was surgically inserted into the bridge of one’s nose; and of course a plethora of in-office lens-making technologies that never quite seemed to get off the ground.
Says Dr. West: “The purpose of the museum is to show that innovation requires failure. If we’re afraid of failure then we can’t innovate.”
And therein lays the moral of this tale. Failure is often a bigger part of innovation than success. We’ve all heard the apocryphal story about Edison failing 900 times to perfect the light bulb. When asked how it felt to fail that much, he answered, “I didn’t fail. I just learned 900 ways how not to make a lightbulb.”
All too often we’re forced to function in an environment where failure is a punishable offense, or at the very least, one for which we should feel ashamed. But that’s not how businesses or people grow. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “Experience is the name people give to their mistakes.”
So the next time you meet an “experienced” professional, you’ll know that you have encountered someone who failed a number of times in order to succeed.
email me at FG@VisionCareProducts.com