House of Flops
Museum of Failure

Museum Of Failure Photo: Jake Ahles © Museum of Failure

​The Museum of Failure is a collection of over 100 failed products and services from some of the world’s best-known companies. Visitors get unique insight into the risky business of innovation. For every mega-success like the Apple iPhone, VHS and Ford Mustang, there are Newtons, Betamaxes and Edsels that crashed and burned before them. The majority of all innovation projects fail and the museum showcases these failures so that we can learn from them.
 

Samuel West

The museum was founded by psychologist and innovation researcher Dr. Samuel West. His research on encouraging exploration and experimentation in the workplace showed that the fear of failure paralyzes innovation, even in the most progressive of companies. The museum was a new and exciting way to communicate the abstract idea of learning from failure and to stimulate discussion about the important role of failure for progress. Learning is the only way to turn failure into success and like the saying goes ‘it is wise to learn from one’s own failure, but even wiser to learn from the failure of others’.
  • Little Miss No Name / 1965 - Toy brand Hasbro, better known for their action figure G.I. Joe, designed this unusual doll to be an alternative to the hugely popular Barbie. In keeping with the climate of the mid-sixties, they wanted to teach little girls compassion and the realities of life for those less fortunate. With large expressive eyes, Little Miss No Name is dressed in rags, barefoot, and sports a very large tear. She even has an outstretched hand, waiting to be consoled and protected. Most kids were terrified. Hasbro quickly discontinued the doll. Like many other odd short-lived products, Little Miss No Name is now an attractive collector’s item and can be found all over the Internet in short films, from horror films to comedies. © Museum of Failure, Photo Credit: Jake Ahles
    Little Miss No Name / 1965 - Toy brand Hasbro, better known for their action figure G.I. Joe, designed this unusual doll to be an alternative to the hugely popular Barbie. In keeping with the climate of the mid-sixties, they wanted to teach little girls compassion and the realities of life for those less fortunate. With large expressive eyes, Little Miss No Name is dressed in rags, barefoot, and sports a very large tear. She even has an outstretched hand, waiting to be consoled and protected. Most kids were terrified. Hasbro quickly discontinued the doll. Like many other odd short-lived products, Little Miss No Name is now an attractive collector’s item and can be found all over the Internet in short films, from horror films to comedies.
  • Rejuvenique / 1999–1999 – This beauty mask tones facial muscles with electricity. According to the instructions, the mask should be strapped onto the face for 15 minutes, three to four times a week. Linda Evans, the woman on the package, is an American television star known from the “Dynasty” series. In Rejuvenique’s instructional film, she congratulates the owner for their exciting purchase and ensures them that it is a good investment. However, according to one user review, the mask “feels like a thousand ants are biting my face.” The mask seems to be taken straight from a horror movie. Also, the device was never received safety approval. © Museum of Failure, Photo Credit: Jake Ahles
    Rejuvenique / 1999–1999 – This beauty mask tones facial muscles with electricity. According to the instructions, the mask should be strapped onto the face for 15 minutes, three to four times a week. Linda Evans, the woman on the package, is an American television star known from the “Dynasty” series. In Rejuvenique’s instructional film, she congratulates the owner for their exciting purchase and ensures them that it is a good investment. However, according to one user review, the mask “feels like a thousand ants are biting my face.” The mask seems to be taken straight from a horror movie. Also, the device was never received safety approval.
  • DeLOREAN DMC-12 / 1981–1983 – The DeLorean, with its exotic gull-wing doors, was one of the most spectacular innovation failures in history. The first prototype was built in 1976, when there were not many competitors for this type of futuristic car. Production on the DeLorean was delayed for years, and by then the competitors had caught up. The DeLorean was marketed as a luxury sports car, but with a severely under-powered engine the car was painfully slow. It was also difficult to keep clean and the stainless steel panel required constant polishing. The design was unusual and exotic, but otherwise the car was a disaster – a nightmare on wheels. The DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt, but the car will always be remembered as the famous time machine from the movie series “Back to the Future.” © Museum of Failure, Photo Credit: Sandra H. Gao
    DeLOREAN DMC-12 / 1981–1983 – The DeLorean, with its exotic gull-wing doors, was one of the most spectacular innovation failures in history. The first prototype was built in 1976, when there were not many competitors for this type of futuristic car. Production on the DeLorean was delayed for years, and by then the competitors had caught up. The DeLorean was marketed as a luxury sports car, but with a severely under-powered engine the car was painfully slow. It was also difficult to keep clean and the stainless steel panel required constant polishing. The design was unusual and exotic, but otherwise the car was a disaster – a nightmare on wheels. The DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt, but the car will always be remembered as the famous time machine from the movie series “Back to the Future.”
  • Spray On Condom / 2006–2008 Variety is the spice of life, and this certainly holds true for safe sex. Condoms can be too big. Or too small. For some of us, it is hard to find the perfect fit. This was the challenge the German Institute for Condom Consultancy decided to take on. Their solution was a spray-on latex condom – simply insert penis into an apparatus to coat with melted latex and then wait 3 minutes for latex to dry. Testing was halted because, for some reason, the idea of inserting one’s penis into the apparatus scared men, not to mention the fact that the three-minute hardening time was an unsolved problem and real mood killer. The project shriveled up. In 2015, an art student re-envisioned the spray-on condom, this time applied with a less frightening spray can. © Museum of Failure, Photo Credit: Jake Ahles
    Spray On Condom / 2006–2008 Variety is the spice of life, and this certainly holds true for safe sex. Condoms can be too big. Or too small. For some of us, it is hard to find the perfect fit. This was the challenge the German Institute for Condom Consultancy decided to take on. Their solution was a spray-on latex condom – simply insert penis into an apparatus to coat with melted latex and then wait 3 minutes for latex to dry. Testing was halted because, for some reason, the idea of inserting one’s penis into the apparatus scared men, not to mention the fact that the three-minute hardening time was an unsolved problem and real mood killer. The project shriveled up. In 2015, an art student re-envisioned the spray-on condom, this time applied with a less frightening spray can.
  • Google Glass /  2013–2015 – When Google launched these “smart glasses” with a built-in camera, voice controls, and a revolutionary screen, expectations were sky-high. Technology enthusiasts paid $1,500 for this futuristic gadget, and all the attention it got made everyone think that it was a fully developed product. However, it was nothing more than an expensive prototype, and one that did not meet the needs of its users. The technology didn’t quite work. The built-in camera raised concerns about privacy issues. People did not like the idea of being filmed at any time and place, and Google Glass was banned in several places. Users began to be called “Glassholes.” © Museum of Failure, Photo Credit: Jake Ahles
    Google Glass / 2013–2015 – When Google launched these “smart glasses” with a built-in camera, voice controls, and a revolutionary screen, expectations were sky-high. Technology enthusiasts paid $1,500 for this futuristic gadget, and all the attention it got made everyone think that it was a fully developed product. However, it was nothing more than an expensive prototype, and one that did not meet the needs of its users. The technology didn’t quite work. The built-in camera raised concerns about privacy issues. People did not like the idea of being filmed at any time and place, and Google Glass was banned in several places. Users began to be called “Glassholes.”
  • Atari E.T.  / 1982–1983 – A video game based on one of the biggest films of 1982 seemed like something to “phone home” about. However, the decision to make an E.T. video game for the Atari 2600 came in late July, giving developers a mere five and a half weeks to build it in time for the 1982 Christmas season. Retailers were dreaming of a green Christmas, but customers found the game difficult to play, clunky, and redundant. E.T. did move 1.5 million units, but that was far lower than expected and Atari reported a $536 million loss in 1983. Today, E.T. is often cited as the worst video game of all time. © Museum of Failure
    Atari E.T. / 1982–1983 – A video game based on one of the biggest films of 1982 seemed like something to “phone home” about. However, the decision to make an E.T. video game for the Atari 2600 came in late July, giving developers a mere five and a half weeks to build it in time for the 1982 Christmas season. Retailers were dreaming of a green Christmas, but customers found the game difficult to play, clunky, and redundant. E.T. did move 1.5 million units, but that was far lower than expected and Atari reported a $536 million loss in 1983. Today, E.T. is often cited as the worst video game of all time.
  • Crystal Pepsi / 1992–1993 – In the 1990s, marketers were obsessed with the idea of purity. Clear drinks signaled purity and health, so a clear soda seemed to be an excellent bet. With a giant and super expensive advertising campaign, Crystal Pepsi became an instant success. But only for a few weeks. Crystal Pepsi became the iconic failure of the 1990s. The company learned from the mistake: “It would have been nice if I’d made sure the product tasted good,” said David Novak, who conceptualized the clear drink. “Once you have a great idea and you blow it, you don’t get a second chance to resurrect it.” © Museum of Failure
    Crystal Pepsi / 1992–1993 – In the 1990s, marketers were obsessed with the idea of purity. Clear drinks signaled purity and health, so a clear soda seemed to be an excellent bet. With a giant and super expensive advertising campaign, Crystal Pepsi became an instant success. But only for a few weeks. Crystal Pepsi became the iconic failure of the 1990s. The company learned from the mistake: “It would have been nice if I’d made sure the product tasted good,” said David Novak, who conceptualized the clear drink. “Once you have a great idea and you blow it, you don’t get a second chance to resurrect it.”
  • Trump: The Game / 1989–1990; 2004 – Inspired by Donald Trump’s real estate business, this game is about buying and selling real estate. It was described as a boring and complicated variation of the popular game Monopoly, though Trump himself said it was “much more sophisticated than Monopoly.” Most people who bought the game probably did not bother reading the ten pages of instructions. The game was relaunched in 2004, following Trump’s success with the television series “The Apprentice.” It flopped, despite simplified game rules, and even more pictures of Trump. According to one review of the game, “It is not a game you want to play again.” © Museum of Failure, Photo Credit: Jake Ahles
    Trump: The Game / 1989–1990; 2004 – Inspired by Donald Trump’s real estate business, this game is about buying and selling real estate. It was described as a boring and complicated variation of the popular game Monopoly, though Trump himself said it was “much more sophisticated than Monopoly.” Most people who bought the game probably did not bother reading the ten pages of instructions. The game was relaunched in 2004, following Trump’s success with the television series “The Apprentice.” It flopped, despite simplified game rules, and even more pictures of Trump. According to one review of the game, “It is not a game you want to play again.”
  • Bic for Her / 2011 – The French company BIC is best known for their ballpoint pens, which have been produced since the 1950s. Bic for Her are pens designed to “fit comfortably in a woman’s hand,” with pastel colors and glitter. Of course. The launch was an instant flop. Consumers ridiculed the product in terrible reviews. On her talk show, the comedian Ellen DeGeneres made fun of the pens: “Over the last 20 years, companies have spent millions of dollars making pills that grow men’s hair and fix men’s sex lives, and now ladies have a pen.” © Museum of Failure, Photo Credit: Jake Ahles
    Bic for Her / 2011 – The French company BIC is best known for their ballpoint pens, which have been produced since the 1950s. Bic for Her are pens designed to “fit comfortably in a woman’s hand,” with pastel colors and glitter. Of course. The launch was an instant flop. Consumers ridiculed the product in terrible reviews. On her talk show, the comedian Ellen DeGeneres made fun of the pens: “Over the last 20 years, companies have spent millions of dollars making pills that grow men’s hair and fix men’s sex lives, and now ladies have a pen.”
  • Colgate Frozen Entrees / 1980s – The Museum of Failure believes in research. But their friends at Colgate-Palmolive contend that they are half-baked and have no recollection of their misadventure in frozen foods. MoF feels brand extension is a great idea when the product makes sense: think of a soap company developing a shampoo line. However, when Colgate-Palmolive allegedly decided to get into the microwave entrée game, the public didn’t bite. The company may have imagined the pairing as perfect: Colgate Chicken Stir Fry, then brushing your teeth with Colgate Toothpaste. Yum!  © Museum of Failure, Photo Credit: Jake Ahles
    Colgate Frozen Entrees / 1980s – The Museum of Failure believes in research. But their friends at Colgate-Palmolive contend that they are half-baked and have no recollection of their misadventure in frozen foods. MoF feels brand extension is a great idea when the product makes sense: think of a soap company developing a shampoo line. However, when Colgate-Palmolive allegedly decided to get into the microwave entrée game, the public didn’t bite. The company may have imagined the pairing as perfect: Colgate Chicken Stir Fry, then brushing your teeth with Colgate Toothpaste. Yum!
  • Growing up Skipper / 1975–1979 – Barbie’s younger sister Skipper was created by Mattel in 1964. By the mid-70s, the company decided it was time for her to grow up a bit. When girls rotated Growing Up Skipper’s left arm forward, she grew an inch and developed breasts. Rotate the same arm backward, and she went back to prepubescence. Creeeepy. Mattel was criticized for sexualizing a teenage girl, which – unlike Growing Up Skipper – isn’t making mountains out of molehills. The doll was a big bust. Let’s hope that Mattel learned its lesson: dolls simply shouldn’t grow up. © ClickAmericana
    Growing up Skipper / 1975–1979 – Barbie’s younger sister Skipper was created by Mattel in 1964. By the mid-70s, the company decided it was time for her to grow up a bit. When girls rotated Growing Up Skipper’s left arm forward, she grew an inch and developed breasts. Rotate the same arm backward, and she went back to prepubescence. Creeeepy. Mattel was criticized for sexualizing a teenage girl, which – unlike Growing Up Skipper – isn’t making mountains out of molehills. The doll was a big bust. Let’s hope that Mattel learned its lesson: dolls simply shouldn’t grow up.
  • The Titanic / 1912 – It seems incredible to us today that anyone could believe that 70,000 tons of steel could be unsinkable, and specifically that the Titanic could be unsinkable, but that was the conventional wisdom of 1912 belief. The shipbuilders Harland and Wolff insist that the Titanic was never advertised as an unsinkable ship. They claim that the “unsinkable” myth was the result of people’s interpretations of articles in “Irish News” and “The Shipbuilder.” They also claim that the myth grew after the disaster. Yet, when the New York office of the White Star Line was informed that Titanic was in trouble, White Star Line Vice President P.A.S. Franklin announced, “We place absolute confidence in the Titanic. We believe the boat is unsinkable.” By the time Franklin spoke those words, Titanic was at the bottom of the ocean. © Museum of Failure
    The Titanic / 1912 – It seems incredible to us today that anyone could believe that 70,000 tons of steel could be unsinkable, and specifically that the Titanic could be unsinkable, but that was the conventional wisdom of 1912 belief. The shipbuilders Harland and Wolff insist that the Titanic was never advertised as an unsinkable ship. They claim that the “unsinkable” myth was the result of people’s interpretations of articles in “Irish News” and “The Shipbuilder.” They also claim that the myth grew after the disaster. Yet, when the New York office of the White Star Line was informed that Titanic was in trouble, White Star Line Vice President P.A.S. Franklin announced, “We place absolute confidence in the Titanic. We believe the boat is unsinkable.” By the time Franklin spoke those words, Titanic was at the bottom of the ocean.
  • Hysteria and its treatment (vibrator) / 450 BC–1952 – Do you sometimes feel nervous, irritable, or sad? Headaches? Have erotic fantasies or intellectual ambitions? If you are a woman, then you might suffer from hysteria. This ancient disorder first reached epidemic proportions in the early 1900s when British doctors estimated that 75 percent of all women suffered from hysteria. Women with “severe” hysteria could even be given surgical hysterectomies or committed to mental asylums. Those who could afford the latest medical care could choose from a variety of treatments for inducing “hysterical paroxysm.” Options included horseback riding or hydrotherapy in which a jet of water was aimed at the vagina. The most popular treatment was manual stimulation by a qualified doctor. The innovative mechanized vibrator made the procedure more efficient and less fatiguing for practitioners. It not only significantly increased the number of patients a doctor could treat, it also required less skill than manual treatment. The grotesque story of hysteria demonstrates how medical progress is influenced by prevailing social norms and conventions. The vibrator was an exciting medical innovation and teaches us that innovation failure is not limited to technology. Failure is sometimes ideological. Photo: Mekitin / Wikimedia Commons
    Hysteria and its treatment (vibrator) / 450 BC–1952 – Do you sometimes feel nervous, irritable, or sad? Headaches? Have erotic fantasies or intellectual ambitions? If you are a woman, then you might suffer from hysteria. This ancient disorder first reached epidemic proportions in the early 1900s when British doctors estimated that 75 percent of all women suffered from hysteria. Women with “severe” hysteria could even be given surgical hysterectomies or committed to mental asylums. Those who could afford the latest medical care could choose from a variety of treatments for inducing “hysterical paroxysm.” Options included horseback riding or hydrotherapy in which a jet of water was aimed at the vagina. The most popular treatment was manual stimulation by a qualified doctor. The innovative mechanized vibrator made the procedure more efficient and less fatiguing for practitioners. It not only significantly increased the number of patients a doctor could treat, it also required less skill than manual treatment. The grotesque story of hysteria demonstrates how medical progress is influenced by prevailing social norms and conventions. The vibrator was an exciting medical innovation and teaches us that innovation failure is not limited to technology. Failure is sometimes ideological.
  • Olestra / 1996–1999 – “100% Satisfaction, 0% Guilt.” These fat-free chips contain the controversial additive Olestra. During the low-calorie craze of the 1990s, several kinds of low-calorie chips were launched. What could be better than chips without any calories? Olestra was approved as an additive in 1996, but it quickly lost its popularity due to unpleasant side effects. The body could not absorb the substance, which caused gastric cramps and diarrhea in larger amounts. Olestra and the chips became known for causing “anal leakage.” © Museum of Failure, Photo Credit: Jake Ahles
    Olestra / 1996–1999 – “100% Satisfaction, 0% Guilt.” These fat-free chips contain the controversial additive Olestra. During the low-calorie craze of the 1990s, several kinds of low-calorie chips were launched. What could be better than chips without any calories? Olestra was approved as an additive in 1996, but it quickly lost its popularity due to unpleasant side effects. The body could not absorb the substance, which caused gastric cramps and diarrhea in larger amounts. Olestra and the chips became known for causing “anal leakage.”
Failure is defined as a deviation from expected and desired results. The Segway illustrates how even a fantastic technological innovation can still be considered a failure. It’s all about expectations. When the high-tech two-wheeled self-balancing personal transporter was launched in 2001 it was expected to revolutionize transport and quickly reach $1 billion in yearly sales. It was expected to be “bigger than the Internet,” and that cities would be designed around the transporter. None of these expectations were met and the Segway has secured its place in the Museum of Failure.
 
The failures on display cover a range of industries, from cutting-edge technology to diarrhea-inducing potato chips. Frighteningly dangerous historical medical devices, creepy spying dolls and washing powder that destroys clothes. Some of the failures were huge economic fiascos while others are just silly. The Juicero from 2016 is silly and expensive. The $700 Wi-Fi connected juicer used single-serving packets of pre-sliced fruit. It’s an example of Silicon Valley’s ability to find sophisticated expensive solutions to problems that do not exist. The museum’s collection comes from all over the world - yes even several items from Germany. Despite their reputation, innovative Germans fail just like everyone else. 
Most company leaders claim that innovation is important, but many find themselves stuck in the notion that ‘failure is not an option’. But the reality is quite the opposite. Elon Musk explains: “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” True innovation is impossible without taking risks, and risky projects often fail. Just as people tend to become more conservative and risk-aversive with age, mature organizations also tend to focus on protecting what is, rather than embracing change and taking large meaningful risks. Most companies can greatly benefit from increasing their failure-rate by boldly experimenting with new ideas rather than playing it too safe. The video rental company Blockbuster, photo company Kodak, and the Swedish calculator manufacturer Facit are all warning examples of stagnated innovation.
 
It’s frustrating that failure cannot reliably be predicted and avoided. While there are some general factors that the museum’s failures have in common, the stories are surprisingly unique. Russian author Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” This also applies to innovation, all successful innovation is alike, but every failed innovation fails in its own special way. Innovations fail for so many reasons. It can be because of bad design, poor leadership, not listening to customers, lack of testing, bad marketing, being too early or late, and sometimes innovations fail simply due to bad luck. However, one thing all failures have in common is a story. A story we can learn from.
At the end of the exhibition, visitors are invited to share their failures on the Failure Confession Wall. Short stories are written on colorful paper and taped to the wall. Some are funny about catastrophic cookie baking, squandered Bitcoin fortunes or failed romantic ambitions. While others are more reflective: “I failed to teach my children that failure is ok” or “I have failed because I was so afraid of failing. Afraid of what others would think of me. Afraid I would not recover from the shame. Thank you for a powerfully liberating experience.”
 
The touring exhibition first opened in Sweden before moving on to Los Angeles, Toronto and Shanghai. A smaller mini-exhibit has visited Vienna, Amsterdam, Liverpool, Jeddah, London, Milano, Seoul and Paris. 

The museum’s collection (most of it) is NOT available online as a virtual tour.

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