Learning from failure

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August 03, 2017

by Andrew Wardlaw



Most FMCG innovation fails, and everyone has got used to this fact. Now the focus is on reformulation – but things can still go wrong. A recent summer event hosted by MMR Research Worldwide promoted best practice – but also included warnings from history, from the much talked about Museum of Failure.


Whilst half of London was enjoying sunnier shores, it was time for a select bunch of hard-grafting food & drink professionals to pause for reflection. Their destination was Sourced Market in Wigmore Street, London – a suitably healthy eatery where it's possible to witness all the latest food trends just by ordering a salad.

As a research agency, we do more than our fair share of product development & testing in FMCG, and we're currently witnessing a surge of activity around reformulation. With attendees from the likes of Britvic, Weetabix, Danone, Nomad and Mondelez, the key message from the day was that we all need to be less reactive and more proactive. In fact, the mind-set of our industry needs to be renovation – not reformulation, with the former pointing more towards a better place.


Learning is the only way to turn failure into success

Samuel West

Founder, Museum of Failure


To make everyone feel better about their own challenges, Samuel West, Founder & Curator of Sweden’s hottest museum, The Museum of Failure, kicked in with several jaw dropping examples of innovation that actually happened – and one (Colgate’s infamous entry into frozen ready meals) that probably didn’t – but we love it any way.

Whether it was BIC Pens for Women or the Low Fat Pringles that caused ‘anal leakage’ – or even the Twitter Peek: a device designed solely to tweet (like there was ever a need for that) – a serious point emerged. Why on earth did no one say anything? If something doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t. So what is it about some corporate cultures that prevents people from saying so?

To help, Samuel shared a short questionnaire that helps corporations assess the levels of empowerment within innovation teams. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Failure Matters

Beyond corporate culture, the message coming from the floor was that we need to celebrate failure more. It is through failure that we grow stronger, because it alerts us to areas that we must probe deeper during future projects. Research should not just be about proving why something is right, a good design will also include an element of devilling – trying to prove why something is wrong.

To this end, The Museum of Failure has teamed up with Andrew Eborn and Octopus TV, to create the Octopus TV Failure Awards (TOFA) - recognising that failure is the father of success.

'We always celebrate success whilst hiding the failures that led to that success. The Octopus TV Failure Awards finally give failure the attention it deserves.' says Andrew Eborn, President of Octopus TV and Founder of the awards.Send your nominations with full description and images to: TOFA@OctopusTV.com

In addition to international recognition and glittering prizes the winners will be featured in The Museum of Failure and receive the much valued TOFA


From failed products and services to campaigns and ads we would rather forget, we want to encourage organisations and brands to be better at learning from failures not just ignoring them and pretending they never happened.

Andrew Eborn

President, Octopus TV


Perhaps we have reached the time for corporations to be more transparent about their failures, so long as this is accompanied by the new insights gained from the experience. We eagerly await the first ceremony.

Andrew Wardlaw is Director of Insight at MMR Research Worldwide