BY HENRY POPOVIC
There can be no success in innovation without failure, and a new exhibit called the Museum of Failure has opened in Industry City, Brooklyn on March 17, for a limited time to highlight just that.
The museum boasts a collection of over 150 products that were ultimately considered failures or flops due to various reasons. The showcase was curated by Dr. Samuel West, a licensed psychologist with a PhD in Organizational Psychology.
The exhibit consists of a lot of notable failed products, but there are a few that stand out. One is a frozen beef lasagna dinner made by toothpaste company Colgate. Some unsuccessful sodas on display included Coca-Cola Blāk, a coffee flavored take on Coke, and Crystal Pepsi, an interpretation of Pepsi that was clear. Additionally, there were a few products connected to Donald Trump, including his brand of steaks and a Trump board game.
“My research is in innovation, and helping companies become more innovative, and one of the biggest obstacles is their fear of failure,” West said.
“So I was looking for ways to communicate how important it is to accept and try to learn from failure in the name of progress. I wanted to do something with this, and then I stumbled upon a really awesome museum in Croatia called the Museum of Broken Relationships, and that one inspired me. If they can make a museum out of broken relationships, then I can make a museum out of failure.”
West also talked about themes and meaning behind the exhibition.
“The theme of the museum is how important failure is for any kind of progress,” West explained.
Many mistakes are made before a product can be considered viable, and it is important to learn from those as well as the fact that many consumers take successful products for granted, ignoring the certainty that failure is what ultimately made the item succeed.
West talked about some of the reasons products fail.
“There’s so many different reasons why these innovations failed. It could be a bad idea from the beginning, it could be bad manufacturing, bad marketing, it could be any number of things,” he said.
The museum has categories for the products on display, including transportation, medical mishaps, digital disasters, and even an adult-themed section.
West also discussed the challenges behind putting the exhibit together.
“The biggest challenges of putting together the museum was sourcing the items, most of [which were] difficult to get ahold of,” he said.
“Also, I want the information that’s provided to be correct, and sometimes we had to rely on unreliable sources, so that’s also been a challenge. And then the biggest challenge is that everything here in the United States is so expensive, opening an exhibition in Europe, even at a fancy place in an expensive city is nothing compared to opening here in the States.”
The managing director of Industry City, Jim Somozia, commented on why the exhibition was a good fit for Industry City.
“Industry City is a large complex. We have a lot of entrepreneurs, and that’s what Brooklyn is really all about, and that means taking a lot of risks, which comes with a whole bunch of failure which then results in long-term success. So when they came and told me about it, I thought it was perfect, it was an easy decision as soon as I heard about it,” Somozia said.
Somozia also explained his perspective on why he felt people should come see the exhibit.
“It’s important to come and see the exhibit in its totality,” he said. “I think the important thing is the overall message, and that is ‘don’t be afraid to fail,’ because many of these things actually led to other things that were really successful.”
Josephine Bodogh, a promoter for the event, talked about its broader mission.
“The Museum of Failure carries a very important and unique message, because we all failed at one point in our life,” she said.
“If you never try, you can never be successful in anything, and you shouldn’t be ashamed of failure, because even the big guys failed. So if they could, then so can you.”
Tickets for the Museum of Failure are on sale now. A discount is available for students.