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Learning From Amazon’s Many Failures; Failing To Succeed?

Learning From Amazon's Many Failures; Failing To Succeed?We try various initiatives all the time at JVM – and often fail spectacularly.

A few things that come to mind are a team competition we set up in 2012 that utterly destroyed morale; a profit-sharing program we set up in 2014 that turned out to be blatantly illegal (our attorney panicked and immediately made us fix it); ill-timed expansions into SoCal and Texas markets; partnerships and bad hires that cost us a fortune; a CRM offering to Realtors that turned out to be a logistical nightmare; and a mass purchase of predictive analytics territories for Realtors that also cost us a fortune and went nowhere.

But – we learned from it all, don’t regret any of it, and we keep on swinging for the fences. This is b/c so much of our success comes from these many experiments, and the ones that work often work spectacularly well.

We find it amusing too when some of our newer team members illuminate our failures in our employee surveys, implying that we should only try things that work; not sure why we didn’t think of that? 😊

Anyway – the purpose of this blog is to remind our team and everyone else that sometimes we have to fail a bit to succeed. (I won’t list our many successes b/c that is not the purpose of this blog)

MUSEUM OF FAILURES – “Innovation Needs Failure”

Last night on Twitter, Trung Phan (one of my favorite follows) shared this Tweet about the Museum Of Failures, a traveling exhibit of failed products and services from around the world.

The entire point of the museum is to remind us that “innovation needs failure.”

Mr. Phan lists some of his favorites, including (1) the ESPN branded phone from 2006 (dead on arrival); (2) IKEA inflatable furniture from the 1980s (not so much); (3) TwitterPeek from 2006 (a device just for Twitter that came out right when smartphones were exploding); (4) Spray-On Condoms (true story & enough said); (5) Life Saver Holes (not related to the condoms); (6) Colgate Frozen Beef Lasagna (in a minty fresh flavor?); (7) Coca-Cola Blak (a coffee and soda mix); (8) Google’s 88-button TV remote (I can’t figure out a ten button remote); (9) Colored Heinz ketchup (purple, green, blue – sounds delicious); and (10) the gazillion failed Oreo flavors (lemon, blueberry pie; birthday cake, Halloween, etc.).

The website is fascinating, and I highly recommend a visit.


More interesting on the failure front is the very long list of Amazon’s many spectacular flameouts. This is b/c Amazon is so extraordinarily successful in spite of them (or b/c of them), and how nonchalant the firm is about them. This is of course b/c Amazon execs well understand how important it is to constantly try things without ever getting bogged down in frustration, depression or recrimination games when it comes to their massive failures.

Here is an excellent Business Insider article that lists many of Amazon’s biggest flops – and the list is very long.

Amazon’s many flops include: (1) The Fire Phone (a waste of $170 million); (2) Crucible (multiplayer game); (3) Haven (massive joint healthcare venture); (4) Amazon Spark (an Instagram-like feature for shopping); (5) Amazon Restaurants; (6) Amazon Storywriter for TV and movie scripts; (7) Pop-up Stores; (8) Dash Buttons (buttons related to specific products to press for instant reordering); (9) Amazon Tickets; (10) Amazon Destinations for hotel bookings; and (11) Amazon Wallet (to store gift cards and more).

That is only a partial list, as Amazon probably fails more than any other company, which may be why they are more successful than almost any other company.

I should probably add the obvious that it is important to make sure you have more successes than failures, to ensure you don’t run out of capital or cash flow (if you’re bootstrapping).

But, aggressive experimentation and numerous failures seem very necessary for any business that wants to scale, grow quickly and stand above the competition.

So, this is my reminder to go forth and fail – but just not more often than you succeed. 😊

Jay Voorhees
Founder/Broker | JVM Lending
(855) 855-4491 | DRE# 1197176, NMLS# 310167