What Would Our Museum of Failure Include?

Museum of Failure, Downtown LA

Museum of Failure, Downtown LA

This weekend we headed to downtown Los Angeles to check out The Museum of Failure.  If you haven’t heard of it, you probably aren’t alone.  The Museum of Failure is a relatively new collection of more than 100 innovation failures, conceived by psychologist and innovation researcher, Dr. Samuel West.  Dr. West became tired and fed up with the constant narrative of success and felt that failure was a much more interesting topic to unpack.  The museum first opened in Sweden, but has made it’s US debut in Los Angeles and will be moving on to other cities soon.  Some of the failures were humorous misses (Colgate Lasagna, The Shake Weight or the sexist disaster pen “Bic For Her”),  while other failures were due to a competitive landscape (Betamax), but all led to interesting conversations about the notion of failure.  

In addition to the collection of failure items, the museum had an entire “Failure Confessional” wall dedicated to posting your personal failures.  “I really hope visitors will walk away with the message that you have to accept failure if you want any progress,” said West. “It’s the idea that maybe failure isn’t such a dangerous idea.  Hopefully, this exhibit encourages more companies and people to take meaningful risks while embracing the necessity of failure.”

Giving up on your goal because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires because you got a flat.
— Anonymous

This visit to the Museum of Failure got me thinking about failure and our inability to celebrate or even learn from failure in many education circles.  I wonder if we were to create an exhibition celebrating the biggest flops in education what would it include? How would we curate the collection?  While there are a lot of articles about US education failing to meet the needs of students, we aren’t specific about the failures.  Some would argue that using new tech for learning is a massive fail, and yet others are building schools around individualized playlists using tech to facilitate this rote learning.  Do we even have a common definition of failure in education?  Is there a fear of failure in education?   And “if failure is a better teacher than success” than why aren’t we more publicly learning from our failures?

I’d love to hear what you would put in the “Education Museum of Failure.”  Maybe together we could curate our collection and learn from it.