“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
– Winston Churchill
Author: Michael McQueen
Six hours’ train ride south of Stockholm in the Swedish town of Helsingborg, you will find one of the more interesting museums you’re ever likely to come across. What is most remarkable about this museum is what it celebrates. Inside you will find no exhibits commemorating triumphs of human ingenuity of creativity – rather, you will encounter exhibit after exhibit celebrating, of all things, failure. That’s right, an entire museum dedicated to many of the greatest stuff ups, misfires and train wrecks of human history.
Opening its doors on June 15th 2017, visitors to the Museum of Failure encounter a litany of flops ranging from Harley-Davidson’s ill-fated perfume, to the breathtakingly misogynistic Bic pen “for her,” the Apple Newton and, of course, Google Glass. Far from ridiculing these embarrassing blunders, the Museum of Failure’s director Samuel West wants to celebrate them. A former clinical psychologist with a doctorate in innovation, West knows too well the vital role that that failure plays in coming up with new ideas. And yet, the stigma attached to failure prevents many organisations and individuals from embracing it. “We glorify success so much, but at the expense of demonising failure. And it’s from failure that we learn,” says West.
I couldn’t agree more.
We live in a culture that is obsessed with success. As someone who spends a lot of my time in the conference world, I can hardly think of an example of a corporate event where a leader took to the stage and celebrated a mistake or failure. Sometimes we skirt close to the theme by talking about ‘learning experiences’ but in reality, modern business culture loves to showcase the success, the triumph and the victory – scarcely acknowledging the failures that were part of the success journey.
Despite our constant talk of the power of failure and the many tired clichés we throw around the subject, we are simply not acting on our knowledge. Particularly in the more public roles of the business world – the publicly listed companies with their shareholder scrutiny, the highly visible and influential C-suite, the keynote speaker stage – there is an overwhelming temptation to hide failures and play it safe.