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Museum of Failure Opens in NYC


Failure is a part of life. A part we usually want to forget. But a new museum encourages us to think differently. The Museum of Failure is open this week in New York City. It chronicles some of the epic failures of the world’s best known companies. Like frozen Beef Lasagna… made by the toothpaste giant Colgate.

I sat down with Dr. Samuel West – the founder and curator of the Museum of Failure – to talk about the role failure plays in innovation.

Dr. West, thank you so much for joining us today.

SAMUEL WEST: Thanks for having me.

TEARE: What sparked the desire to create a museum of failure?

WEST: I started the museum in Sweden back in 2017. And it was a mix of reasons why I started. One was that I was sick and tired of the shiny, happy success stories of this is what you know, successful innovation or a successful business person entrepreneurs like, and what these stories fail to convey is the reality that behind most of the products and services we take for granted, there are hundreds of failed, iterations, failed product projects, upon which these successes are built. So I thought it was a museum of failure, I wanted to highlight that, you know, the world is full of failure as well, and that those stories also get some attention.

TEARE: So tell us a little bit about some of those failures. What can visitors to the museum of failure expect to see?

WEST: We have things a wide range of products and services, everything from food items like Crystal Pepsi, New Coke, to medical items, we have lobotomy tools. We have silly items, you know, a golf club that you use as a urinal.

TEARE: A golf club used as a urinal?

WEST It’s called the Uro - Club, with a “U.” Yeah, that's one of the silly items we have.

TEARE: Have you changed anything specific about the museum? Now that it's come to New York? Are there any New York specific failures?

WEST: The museum is constantly growing. So we get donations regularly. So one donation received yesterday, is from a person in New York who donated a Cabbage Patch Doll called “Snack Time.” It's a doll that, it you feed the doll some plastic food items. And it has a mechanism that chews that food and ends up in a backpack. The problem with this doll was it also liked to chew on children's fingers and hair. It was a dangerous doll. So that one was donated yesterday, we just and we put it into the museum.

TEARE: So that item was actually recalled due to safety reasons?

WEST: Yes, definitely. There was a big recall on that doll. I think it's funny, but it's, it's not safe.

TEARE: If you were given your own spot in the museum, what failure would you put on display?

WEST: I have a failure that's related to the museum that is embarrassing. So I'm a museum curator, you’d think that I can spell the word museum. But when I got the idea for museum of failure, I was so excited. I thought it was such a great idea that I immediately bought the domain I was all happy about it. It was still available, right? Until I got an email confirming I bought it and it says you're now the happy owner of “mu-sum” of So I can’t even spell the word museum. That would probably be the texts associated with me at the museum.

TEARE: Oh, that's a great story. Do you have that displayed anywhere on the website?

WEST: No, I'm embarrassed.

TEARE: One of the funniest failures that I saw was the spray on condom which failed with consumers, from my understanding, because it took three minutes for the latex to dry. And so by the time the condom was ready, the condom user was not. Are failures like these better forgotten? What can we learn from embarrassing failures like that?

WEST: I mean, it’s a funny item and it’s a silly concept. But I think the serious takeaway message is that we need those kinds of experiments to test the boundaries. Who knows? Maybe a spray on condom was a great idea, somebody has to try it out. And we shouldn't be, we shouldn't stigmatize the failure when people are trying new things. Why do we praise success and progress so much and then we penalize failure? They're both part of the same coin… But the spray on condoms were stupid, you’re right.

TEARE: This is Dr. Samuel West, the founder and curator of the Museum of Failure, which is open in New York City until May. Dr. West, thank you so much for coming in and talking with us here at Uptown radio.

WEST: Thanks a lot, it was a good chat.


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