November 8, 2011

How early product failures led to huge successes

Failure is not an is a future success.
Failure gets a bad rap. It is actually an important element of success.
When I speak at conferences around the world I say "In America we
don't use the word failure...we call it experience". You learn far more
from failure than you do from success. And those lessons from failure
are what prepares you for future success.

Angry BirdsAngry
Birds became an overnight success...after 51 failures. Thats right,
Rovio produced 51 other games before hitting it big with Angry Birds.
Can you name any of the 51 games Rovio produced before Angry Birds? I
doubt it. No one remembers failures. And that is a good thing. It means
your reputation is not irreparably harmed by failures.

Guitar Hero, the music game, was another overnight success that took
10 years to materialize. Harmonix produced nine other games before
hitting it big with Guitar Hero. All the previous failures were
required to get to the huge success.

is a popular lubricant with hundreds of uses. Do you know why it is
called WD40? Because the first 39 formulations didn't work. The 40th
one did and they called it WD40. The WD stands for Water Displacement.

Now I bet you can guess how Formula 409 got its name. Thats right,
the first 408 formulations didn't work. In fact, lots of very successful
products were the result of previous failures.

Post-It Notes are the result of a failed experiment by engineers at
3M to develop a new adhesive. It would stick to some surfaces but could
be easily peeled off, or fall off with too much force. It was considered
a failure until the 3M engineers thought of different possible uses.
Super Glue was another product success born from a failed experiment.

Odeo was a startup focused on building a new podcasting product. They
weren't having much success. One of the engineers was playing around
with a side project to publish short messages to a small audience. That
project became Twitter.

Can you think of other product success that came after initial
failure? Or startup companies that succeeded after their first ideas
failed? If so, leave a comment on the far right side of this blog.

Don Dodge
is a Developer Advocate at Google.  You can find this
post as well as additional content on his blog called: Don Dodge on The Next
Big Thing
.  You can also follow Don (@dondodge) on Twitter by clicking here or on Google+ by clicking here.