Failure is in vogue these days. Last year, during orientation and finals week, the failures of Smith College students and faculty were projected on a large screen, as part of an effort to destigmatize failure and foster resilience in their otherwise high achieving students. Currently, in the Arts District of DTLA, some of history’s worst ideas and failed products — ranging from disturbing to hilarious — are being celebrated at the Museum of Failure. The collection of 100+ epic fails is on exhibit at the A + D Architecture and Design Museum through February 18th, 2018 (an extended run) giving you a clever chance to tee up these important ideas about resilience and grit with your family. We promise lots of laughs along the way.
The museum is the brainchild of Dr. Samuel West, a Ph.D. with a degree in clinical psychology, who studied the effects of a playful work environment on innovation. During subsequent consultations with companies that wanted to improve their climate for innovation, he repeatedly noticed that the fear of failure paralyzed innovation. The Museum of Failure was born from his desire for a novel way to communicate the idea of learning from failure and explore the function of failure and innovation as two halves of a whole.
With the promise of “failures for everyone from 9 to 90”, we set out with our 3, 8 and 11 year old kids. The museum is an intimate space and we were able to get through it in just under an hour. I soon discovered that my dad had a keen eye for doomed products of the 80’s and 90’s, as our family owned a Sony Betamax player, a laser disc player (ours also had a karaoke function) and the Fabreze Scent Stories (think CD player that plays the scents of a tropical island instead of music). There were nostalgic items that our children thought were super cool, such as the Orbitz soft drink and the Crystal Clear Pepsi. There was a funny trip down memory lane about a former boss who used to eat entire bags of potato chips made with Olestra and suffered the consequence. Some failures like Exubera, the first inhalable insulin for diabetics, was likely ahead of its time and may warrant another attempt as advances are made in technology and design.
There is a “Failure Confessional” where guests are invited to anonymously post their own failures, which provided an opportunity to laugh at our own ill-fated efforts. Parents beware: a section of failed sex related products is partially tucked away along the back wall of the last room, marked in red and not suitable for children.
Although we chuckled our way through some hilariously bad ideas, the real value of our visit became apparent in the conversations that followed. We noticed that some of the world’s most successful companies were represented at the museum, including Sony, Pepsi, Nike and Apple. We also noticed that despite their embarrassing fails, these companies went onto become innovators in their markets and iconic brands recognized throughout the globe. We talked about what failing and trying again looked like for each of us. We thought about what we would do if we knew we couldn’t fail and what steps we can take now to get started.
How to Visit:
Museum entry is not timed and tickets can be purchased here for $15 general admission, $8 for senior (65+), Military and A+D members, children 12 and under for free. We purchased same day tickets on a Saturday afternoon and although the museum was busy, there was no line to enter.
Museum hours: Wednesday: 2-6 pm / Thursday and Friday: 2-8 pm / Saturday and Sunday: 12-7 pm/ Closed on Monday and Tuesday
What else to do in the Neighborhood:
Needless to say, our 3 year old son was not as amused by our trip to the “no touch” museum. He categorizes the museums we go to as “touch” and “no touch”. Fortunately, a small but fresh and modern park with play structures fun for our 3-11 year olds was just a short stroll away.
Hauser & Wirth is a 100,000 square foot modern and contemporary art gallery opened by former MOCA chief curator Paul Schimmel. Admission is free and they often host free Family Studio Workshops featuring an artist on exhibit and Family Garden Workshops. Check their schedule here and more details from a recent excursion to the Arts District here.
The Arts Districts boasts some of the best in LA for fine dining, such as Bestia, Factory Kitchen and Church and State. For a more casual meal or snack, the Bread Lounge has excellent traditional and inventive sandwiches, salads, pastries and desserts. Their baguettes are served in some of the best restaurants around town and their hot chocolate is worthy of the slo-mo function on your phone as you stir and spoon it. Other notable spots include the Urban Radish, a market and eatery with breakfast, lunch and dinner options, as well as the The Chairman for Asian bowls and bao sandwiches. Popular micro-chains such as Cafe Gratitude, Wursktküche, Urth Caffé, Salt & Straw and Pie Hole have outposts in the Arts District.
Extend the Conversation:
Book: Mistakes that Worked: 49 Familiar Inventions & How They Came to Be. Some of the best things in life, including chocolate chip cookies, donut holes and popsicles, plus useful devices and fun toys were invented purely my mistake. The entertaining and sometimes silly backstories for these everyday items are great lessons in the necessity of mistakes and failures in learning and innovation.
Movie: The Greatest Showman is inspired by the story of P.T Barnum, a resilient visionary who created the Barnum and Bailey Circus despite set backs and failures along the way.
Article written by Jenny Lee