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Museum of failure

There’s a “Museum of Failure” in Sweden.

Inspired by Croatia’s “Museum of Broken Relationships”, the museum celebrates products that flopped.

Its there to remind, teach and showcase the critical role of failure in innovation.

And to encourage organizations to become better at learning from failure.

Perhaps not by accident, Sweden is an innovation powerhouse.

Click on photo⬇ to see some innovation failures you may not remember.

One of the featured products is Google Glass. Launched in 2013, this innovative wearable device resembled a pair of eyeglasses. Built on the latest augmented reality technology, it displayed information directly in the user's field of vision. Consumers immediately voiced their concerns. The sight of someone wearing the glasses made some people feel uncomfortable, as if their privacy was being violated. Others felt wearing a smart phone on their face made them look funny. Ultimately, the negative perceptions outweighed the positive and the tech giant ceased all work on the Glass project in 2015. It now rests peacefully in Google’s graveyard

The behavioral science of innovation

Successful innovation requires far more than a market gap, a visionary, funding, and new technology. Innovation is a behavioral process from the go to the finish. It relies on the decision-making process and behaviors of both the innovators who produce it and the consumers who adopt it, as well as the surrounding support system.

Inside the consumer’s brain

Many brilliant innovations stay on the shelf. Like Google Glass, they may be “too disruptive” and require people to change their habits too much too fast, without offering adequate assistance and immediate benefits. They ignore cognitive effort, emotional associations, social and cultural factors and perceptions of legitimacy. They may be embraced by consumer research, but when it comes to actual adoption, the intention-action gap persists because of too much friction. To figure out the problem, innovators often throw tons of money at consumer research but to no avail. Why is that? Anthropologist Margaret Mead acutely observed that: “What people say, what people do, and what people say they do are entirely different things.” In the case of innovation, this means that asking consumers directly about innovative products (or any products) is not such a good idea. People can post-rationalize their behavior, meaning that they invent explanations after the fact to justify their actions— and these explanations may not be accurate. Moreover, people can rarely imagine the form of the solution they are looking for, unless they are truly experts.

What can innovators do then to increase the chances of adoption?

They can observe how people make decisions in a specific context and apply behavioral techniques to analyze and enhance the journey. For instance, behavioral maps can be used to examine the steps a person needs to take to complete a target behavior, like purchasing a Google Glass. What are the different influences that affect their decision to buy or not to buy? What are the barriers to adoption (logistical, cognitive, psychological, social, cultural) and how can they be removed or reduced? What benefits can be amplified or inserted in the journey? How can innovators help people form new habits that are beneficial to them? And then, having identified some actions to reduce barriers and amplify benefits, it’s time to test the new proposition before going full-scale. Why test? Because when a situation is new, as is the case with innovation, intuition about what will work for customers cannot be relied upon. That is because the decision-maker has not had enough opportunities to practice their judgment while getting reliable feedback – it’s all too new.

Read my full article on BehaviouralEconomics here

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