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Sweden’s Museum of Failure celebrates tech’s biggest flops

Everyone remembers history’s most successful products, but sometimes its flops can be fondly remembered, too. That can be especially true in tech, where a failure can mean a product was ahead-of-its-time, or a bad implementation of a good idea.

Those ideas — ranging from the noble flops to the “who on earth thought this was a good idea” down-and-outs — form the basis of the newly opened Museum of Failure in the Swedish town of Helsingborg.

“I’m not sure failure should be celebrated, but it should be given more attention,” curator Samuel West, a licensed clinical psychologist, told Digital Trends. “Success might be good for inspiration, but it is through failure that we learn. Eighty to 90 percent of all innovation projects fail, yet we seldom see or read about these failures. Also, organizations need to improve their ability to learn from failure. Even the coolest Silicon Valley ‘Fail Forward’ companies may be good at accepting failure, but they suck at learning from failure.”

As you might imagine, given that the pace of innovation is much higher in the tech sector, there are plenty of tech gadgets in the museum’s 70-plus item permanent collection. In fact, West says he had to work hard to avoid having an exhibition that was entirely tech-focused.

“There are so many failed smartphones that it would have been easy to have too many,” he said. “We’ve got the uninteresting and short-lived Microsoft Kin to the highly interesting — from a failure perspective — TwitterPeek.”

You’ll also find a motley crew of everything from the Segway (remember when it was going to change transportation as we know it?) to the Apple Newton MessagePad, which laid the groundwork for the later iPhone and iPad, but never sold more than a couple of hundred thousand units over its five-year lifespan.

To see the museum’s collection, there are a few possible options. A traveling collection will go on tour later this year, although no dates have yet been set. For conferences and events, a small miniature pop-up version of the museum is available for hire. In addition, Google has offered to help create a virtual version of the museum, although West doesn’t know when this will be made available.

The best option, though? “Fly to Copenhagen, Denmark,” he said. “Have a beer. Get on a train to Helsingborg, Sweden, which takes one hour.” That way you get to witness the failure in all its glory.

And if you happen to have anything to donate to the collection, bring it along! “I am always looking for interesting additions,” West finished. “They don’t always have to be consumer products or big brands. The criteria is that the item, service, or product must a) be an innovation in someway, and b) be a failure.”

We’ll get thinking.


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