In the Swedish City of Helsingborg, failures exist at an alarming rate. Just across the river from Denmark, the community isn’t actually screwing up but rather celebrating failures from around the globe. History was made when The Museum of Failures opened to the public in June. Colossal innovation failures -from the Apple Newton to the Ford Edsel – are cherished instead of criticized in this funky exhibit of ingenuity that missed the mark.
The exhibit is the brainchild of Samuel West, a clinical psychologist with a passion for failure. Not that he loves to fail, but it bothers him to no end that most of us are taught as children that failure is something horrible and to be avoided. “We know that 80 to 90 percent of innovation projects fail, and you never read about them,” he says, “And if there’s anything we can do from these failures, is learn from them.”
West’s curated collection of 51 noteworthy flops demonstrates that it takes many raw ideas to get to something that works. He helps people connect the dots between failure and innovation, making it clear we need to tolerate the former in order to enjoy the later. “I genuinely believe that as a society we underestimate failure,” West declared in an interview with NBC News. “We are too obsessed with success.”
We all have setbacks, mistakes, and failures, both personally and professionally. If we’re not failing at some level, we’re not playing to our true potential. The question isn’t whether or not we fail, but rather how we respond. Each stinging failure can be a learning opportunity, instead of a catastrophic event. By removing judgment and examining the failure as raw data, we can use each setback as a roadmap toward growth. The greatest among us don’t fail less; they simply embrace their goof ups to guide their future instead of wallowing in shame. The moment you realize that failure is not fatal is the moment you become liberated.
Ironically, the Museum of Failure will close permanently on Sept 15. But Samuel West is not deterred. He’s currently seeking a new home for the collection and is even considering taking his exhibit on the road. West is on a mission to elevate humanity by embracing, and learning from, failure. Let’s follow his lead, allowing our failures to pave the way for outrageous success.