‘How a visit to a museum made us reflect on what it means to fail’

SI Scholar Amarildo Come shares what Jönköping University's NFGL Network learnt while visiting the Museum of Failure in Helsingborg.

‘How a visit to a museum made us reflect on what it means to fail’
Photo: NFGL members stand at the entrance of the MOX exhibition

The Museum of Failure is a concept museum showcasing a collection of products and services from around the world which for one reason or another, failed. All items in the museum show the perilous business of innovation, and what we can learn from these unsuccessful attempts. 

The museum was curated by Dr Samuel West, a psychologist and innovation researcher. While it displayed products considered as failures, a gentle reminder on the brochure emphasises the value of unsuccessful efforts: ‘…we should see them as proof of our unquenchable human curiosity and inventiveness – as important steps in our development.’

Photo: Entrance of the exhibition 

The museum serves as a great example of how curiosity can often give us a push forward, merely to see what happens; and how the desire to simplify our everyday life or to become rich and successful can be a driving force for human creations. But, things don’t always go as we expect them to. This is how we, humans, make mistakes and create useless, odd or even dangerous innovations — things that fail to serve their purpose.

During the visit, we learnt how failure or a mistake could sometimes become a genuine success or provide a unique opportunity to learn. The exhibited products from different companies such as Coca-Cola, Sony, Amazon, Ford, and many others, reminded us of the powerful business mantra: ‘the customer is king’. Too expensive, unhappy, uncomfortable – those are expressions that companies do anything to avoid when their new products enter the market. The fact that markets are simply unprepared for futuristic technology, for instance, could be the reason for unsuccessful products such as Google Glasses created to record video and taking pictures with the glasses, or Amazon Fire Phone, a phone with a button leading directly to Amazon’s website.

What we realised when staring at these products which didn’t make the cut is that success is about the journey and lessons learnt. You have to understand why your product was unsuccessful and revert the situation.

Photo: The first set of the more than 80 failures in the exhibition

Finally, reflecting on the importance of innovation and responsible consumption, that represent the core concepts of the museum, remains the most crucial learning after this museum visit. We learned that innovation requires out-of-the-box thinking and that perhaps success comes from failing again and again.  

It is a failure that uncovers the traps and pitfalls to make way for success?

One member admitted that they’re still afraid to fail, failure has never been anything anybody congratulates you about. But that shouldn’t hinder anyone from being innovative. ‘Fail fast’ is the key for better innovation. In the end, failures are a fascinating learning experience.



Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.