Finding fun at failure with belly-up business ideas

When plain old red ketchup is just too boring... (Photo courtesy of The Museum of Failure)

Ever have a really bad idea? One that failed so badly it was epic in scale?

If you have, you aren’t alone. Plenty of successful people and big companies have had bad ideas – some very bad.

But a museum has found success in others’ failure.

After being a popular tourist spot in Sweden, with traveling exhibits around the world, the Museum of Failure now has a U.S. location in Los Angeles – a city where dreams are known to die.

But the museum is anything but depressing, or a place for the shaming of bad ideas. Instead, it celebrates ideas and inventions that were just a bit off base and carries the message that you can learn a lot by failure.

The museum boasts that the failure exhibition provides a great learning experience for corporate groups to learn about failure and its relationship to innovation. It even has a full teacher/leader discussion guide created by curator Sam West to help facilitate the conversation.

Visiting the museum might bring back memories of some clever but silly products.

Remember Pennsylvania’s own Heinz EZ Squirt – the colorful ketchup in a squeeze bottle that came in such appetizing hues as green. I mean, who wouldn’t want green ketchup on their hot dog, right?!?

You might also see a couple of products that you never heard of and might wish you never had.

Colgate lasagna and spray-on condoms are two other products on display.

Um. No.

One massive product failure was a huge social media hit.

Remember the “Bic for Her” from a couple of years ago?

It was an, ahem, “daintier” ball point pen, designed for lady hands. It came in lovely lady-like pastel colors to make women feel oh so feminine while scrolling love poems – or whatever it is they pictured womenfolk doing with pens.

Women were hilariously outraged, making sarcastic and often funny comments on Twitter and other social media channels about the need for a female-only pen.

A sampling of the comments:

“These pens actually make me feel liberated! At last, my delicate feminine needs and tastes are being considered!”

“When I saw these, I just had to have them, so I asked my husband to buy them for me. He refused, as he said that owning a pen might make me think, and then have ideas of my own. Then I might start to write, which would take time away from my wifely duties such as cooking, cleaning and bearing children.”

There’s hundreds more like those … if not thousands.

So, there’s one win. Bic might have annoyed women, but it got the kind of free publicity a company can’t buy, even if it only led to people buying the normal “unisex” pens – because the Bic for Her inspired jokes but not sales.

There is one big failure for the Museum of Failure – it’s awfully far away from Pennsylvania.

While the new Los Angeles museum is undoubtedly closer than the original in Sweden, it’s still more than a day trip.

Maybe a local business group can sponsor a trip there.

Or, I noticed the museum is also looking to have traveling exhibits in the U.S.

Perhaps one of our local museums or educational attractions might want to get on the list.

What could go wrong?


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