Everyone knows that Thomas Edison found 2,000 ways not to make a lightbulb. James Dyson made 5,126 prototypes before hitting it big with his dual cyclone vacuum cleaner. And Apple nearly went bankrupt in the 1990s because the Newton PDA and the Macintosh LC were no match to Microsoft or IBM products at the time. The failure of a product is not something to shame or hide but to celebrate. Entrepreneurs must continue taking meaningful risks—that will sometimes end in failure—in order for society to both advance and solve some of the world’s biggest problems. The beauty of capitalism is that it fosters experimentation through trial and error because, in many cases, it’s impossible to predict consumers’ desires.
Being able to take risks and having the freedom to try out wild ideas is the only process that leads to successful innovation. The Museum of Failure in Washington, D.C., highlights that essential phenomenon by displaying many commercial flops—some of which were before their time while others were just a blip in some companies’ otherwise very successful product lines. Reason spoke with Johanna Guttmann, one of the organizers of the exhibit, about the importance of failure and how some industries, like tech, are better at learning from failure than other industries. Below are some of the