New museum in Sweden celebrates the failure necessary for progress and innovation

Perhaps it should come as little surprise that Sweden’s new Museum of Failure sounds like the perfect museum for a person like me. Jason Zasky, writing for Failure Magazine (which is now one of my favorite subscriptions), reports the following:

The Museum of Failure isn’t on any list of the Top Things to do in Sweden—at least not yet. The new museum, which opened last week in Helsingborg, a city of 130,000 people on Sweden’s southern coast, has already attracted worldwide media attention and is drawing visitors from around the globe. In fact, Chinese tourists have been arriving by the busload “to look at the Donald Trump board game,” notes curator Samuel West, a former clinical psychologist who has more than 70 different failed products and objects on display in the 450-square-meter space.

The underlying message of the museum—that we can all learn from failure, that even the largest multinational companies fail spectacularly, and that business executives have the most to gain from an appreciation of failure—is worth considering. In fact, the museum’s essence recalls the work of the late Robert McMath, who spent decades building a collection of tens of thousands of failed consumer products, housed in his Ithaca, New York-based New Products Showcase and Learning Center, which I had the opportunity to visit in 2000. McMath would go on to write several columns for Failure, including one about Breakfast Mates, which explains how Kellogg’s went wrong when it tried to sell cereal and milk—a winning combination, if there ever was one—together.

Zasky was lucky enough to score an interview with the museum’s curator, Samuel West — which I highly encourage you to read in full. In the interview, West explains that absolutely none of the companies whose products are featured would agree to discuss their inclusion:

Most of the brand managers didn’t even reply to my emails or LinkedIn requests. I do understand that it’s sensitive but I was naïve to think that with the focus of the museum being to learn from mistakes, that they would cooperate. Failure is kind of cool now, and failure isn’t as stigmatized as it used to be—or so I thought. I was wrong.

As for me, I can’t wait for an excuse to visit Sweden to check out the Museum of Failure!

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