Why it’s essential to fail



The launch of the Museum of Failure in Sweden which hit the news today is (like most things that come out of Scandinavia) a very neat idea.  The whole point of the museum is that it carries some of the highest profile products that were launched to great fanfare but flopped at the tills – including Bic Biros for women (yes, really) , Harley Davidson Perfume (Mmm!) Sony Betamax (Yes, my Dad bought one) and Google Glass (which was frankly just a bit creepy).

What is so clever about the museum is not that it is celebrating failure, it is recognising that for businesses to innovate successfully, they have to expect to make some mistakes along the way.   In life, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince, and the fact that the museum carries failures from some of the innovation titans of all time – including Sony, Google, Apple and Kodak is testament to this fact. 

Our schooling instils a strong reflex in us that failure is something to be avoided at all costs.  I’m still smarting about a Geography exam I took at the tender age of thirteen. But it’s really important that all business cultures allow, even encourage, their teams to fail.  It feels countercultural to say this but it is only by taking risks, and trying things out to see if they’ll work, that a business can innovate successfully.

In our business, we have a number of projects on the go at any one time, looking to develop products, for example, that marry smart digital knowledge and an understanding of big data with traditional communications strategy.  We also bring learnings from the different markets in which we operate into other offices to see what works, and, critically, what doesn’t.  Lots of these ideas never get past the drawing board.  But those that do are innovative and exciting and are meeting the needs of our clients who are coming to terms with a paradigm shift in how they communicate with the outside world.  We can only do this if we allow failure no longer to be a dirty word, but actually to be one of the key drivers of our business.   


Tom Buchanan

Tom Buchanan

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