Mister Beacon Episode #106
Embracing and Learning from FailureApril 07, 2020
How do you feel about your failures? Do you fail enough? If we are all supposed to fail fast, what’s the best way of doing it? What do you think of Colgate Lasagna, New Coke or Google Glass? These are just 3 of 100+ failed products featured in The Museum of Failure, ‘a collection of failed products and services from around the world’ with the goal of providing visitors with a learning experience and insight into ‘the risky business of innovation’. This week, we sit down to talk to Dr. Samuel West, Organizational Psychologist and Curator of The Museum of Failure, about how failure, but more importantly how failing mindfully, is essential to progress. We talk about an organization’s culture and effect on exploration and experimentation, principle patterns of failure (or lack thereof), and to keep true to the theme of the Mr. Beacon podcast, we also discuss whether the Bluetooth beacon ecosystem should be regarded as a failure.
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Steve Statler 00:16
Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. This week, we are going to be talking about failure. And some other related things. I'm really delighted to have Dr. Samuel West with me, curator, amongst other things of the Museum of failure. Samuel, thanks very much for joining us. Great pleasure being on your show. Well,
Dr. Samuel West 00:40
I don't know yet. I'm just saying that I might as
Steve Statler 00:44
well, this could be a failure, it could be a failure on many, many levels. But I have a feeling it won't be
Dr. Samuel West 00:49
my first failure. So that's okay. Well, we're
Steve Statler 00:52
gonna talk about that. But there's a few things I wanted to cover in this, because people may be wondering what the heck because normally we're talking about wireless technologies. But I, I saw you present. In Copenhagen, we were both part of the Deloitte Digital Agenda Summit, which looked like he was going to be a failure, the conference was booked with one of the biggest meeting spaces in Copenhagen, the chairs were set out. And then we were told, We can't do this anymore. But I assume you flew in, like me, I flew in from the States. And I was kind of wondering why the heck am I doing this, but, you know, it's delight. And it was just, I wanted to honor the commitment. So we, I guess, we both flew in. And it turned out there were 1000 people online watching this thing. And so we thought it was going to be a failure. We embraced it. And it turned out to be a success. And I think actually over the months, they'll probably be more people watching it than would have done otherwise. But I just want to get to the agenda for this session, which is, you know, you've specialized in failure and and play as well in your career. So you know, why look at why talk about failure, it's because of lessons learned. It's, I think about a philosophy of embracing failure, and how that can help you as a person and as a company, as a team. And also want to talk a bit about our pet area, which is not your area of specialism, but Bluetooth beacons, and you could argue that that is failed, you can argue that it's succeeded, but it was, it certainly had some of the hallmarks of some of the, the exhibits in the Museum of failure, which was really hyped. So that's what I'd like to cover. There's actually many, many other things I want to cover. But it's basically lessons learned, kind of how we can do better for ourselves, whatever that means. And then we'll talk a bit about beacons at the end, and probably many other things. But first of all, what is the museum
Dr. Samuel West 03:10
the Museum of failure is a collection of over 100 I actually think we, my last candles 130 different innovations that have failed and these innovations can be you know, tech products, they can be medical products, they can be digital services, anything that will be considered something that would be considered an innovation is welcome in the museum as long as it's failed. So, and then so the innovation is sort of the easy part. I mean, so the Samsung, I think, what was the name of the Samsung that exploded on planes? Oh, yeah, the
Steve Statler 03:57
Galaxy something Galaxy Note.
Dr. Samuel West 03:59
Yeah. So I have like four of them. People keep sending me these galaxy. Note saying I did donation, it will never make it into the museum because it was not an innovation. It was just crap manufacturing and quality control. Right. So that's not going to be in the museum ever. But the you know, Samsung fold that recently came out. That one will make it I can't afford it right now. But
Steve Statler 04:31
maybe someone will, maybe so. Yeah. But you have some stuff that belongs to them. But it's actually I
Dr. Samuel West 04:41
just wanted them because the the difference between just failure and Innovation Center for me, the important part for the for this collection is that it be something that's innovative,
Steve Statler 04:52
right. And so you you're a writer you you you You're a public speaker. So you came to the Deloitte thing in Copenhagen. And, you know, listening to you it's very amusing. I mean, it's we love laughing at failure, don't we, especially if it's other people.
Dr. Samuel West 05:15
There's a nice quote, and I don't know who to attribute this to, but it's probably German. It's wise, wise, people are wise people learn from their own failures. But it's even wiser to learn from the failures of others. And there's something like that going on the museum. Absolutely. But the enjoyment part, I mean, doesn't matter how you approach failure, at least in this context, where, you know, it's not about people dying or getting hurt for the most part. That it's, it's it is it is humorous. I mean, there's something about it, it's that's funny, you know,
Steve Statler 05:58
it's not about people dying or getting hurt, but it is about people getting diarrhea, isn't it? That's that's one of the Yeah, yeah. So the Colgate lasagna, what was that?
Dr. Samuel West 06:14
It Colgate lasagna is one example of a brand that didn't understand the the brand itself. And Colgate This is from the branding, the literature on branding and branding, failure, brand failures in the 1980s. Colgate launched as a product of frozen dinners, TV dinners, and I don't have the originals. But the branding says, you know, like, whatever the regular frozen dinners would be for my museum, we recreated it as a Colgate lasagna. And that's just one of those funny failures that I'm not sure there's like a whole bunch of learning to be gained. It's just you know, what were they thinking? You remember what you're, you're old enough to remember New Coke? Yeah,
Steve Statler 07:08
I remember New Coke. Yes. Yeah. It just didn't go.
Dr. Samuel West 07:14
No, it didn't. It was one of the biggest mistakes that that ironically boosted sales of Coca Cola in the long run. But that's another story.
Steve Statler 07:25
Well, how did that work? So So I mean, so So I'm sort of Tony, because we could just spend the time laughing at companies and not learning, couldn't we? But the point is, we can learn. But how did how did so do you think coke learned from that experience? And how did they benefit from the failure
Dr. Samuel West 07:47
to that to do questions a, they. So Pepsi was the underdog. And they Pepsi did something called and I remember this in in Sacramento, where I grew up, they had pet take the Pepsi Challenge. So they would be at markets and different events and beers, and you could go then you get little, little plastic mugs of Coca Cola and Pepsi. And you got to try both of them. And people prefer Pepsi. Like, that's what Pepsi said, you know, and then apparently, Coca Cola did their own market research, and they found out that people actually preferred Pepsi. So, Coca Cola decides that they're like, well, they changed their classes, their sort of secret, iconic recipe, and make coke taste more like Pepsi. And people hated it, then I don't touch our brand. This is our ns, you know, we love both we don't want Pepsi and when we buy Pepsi, you know, there was a huge backlash against because of cola and they had to retreat and say, okay, okay, we're gonna keep New Coke there. And they rebranded as New Coke. And then they gave old Coke, the name classic, which you can still see on the cans and bottles today. So we're gonna call it classic. And then they phased out New Coke later on. Now, it's a huge guitar it was a huge failure on Coca Cola as part but the interesting thing is that people were so afraid of losing not getting any more coats that they they hamster did they they went crazy. Buying Coke Classic, which boosted cover call the sale and the CEO of Coca Cola said in some later after the fact that yeah, they they did boost our sales but we're not that smart. Like it was too good for us. Yeah.
Steve Statler 10:00
So, the if we're on the topic of learning from, from failure, you know, what are you if you're a organizational psychologist, and so you kind of got into this for maybe whimsical reasons, but also serious reasons, it seems to me I do want to talk a bit about as actually skimming through your PhD thesis on play at work. And it's fascinating. So I want to get I want to get into that, eventually, if we have the time. But do you have? Can you summarize in some way? You know, what, how organizations should deal with failure? Because it seems like if we stick our head in the sands, and we say our strategy is to never fail as an organization, that it's like, just dump, isn't it? It's just completely unrealistic. So you will fail. The question is how you treat failure? And, you know, basically, I guess it's about risk taking, and then how much risk do you want to take as an organization? And that's a dial you can play with? And I don't think you can say there's a right or a wrong answer to that is there it's like for startups, if we're not taking risks, then why be a startup? We should be?
Dr. Samuel West 11:19
Yeah, you should be you're wasting your time. Well, I mean, there's several aspects. One is organizations. And this is one of the aims. I mean, one of the aims of the museum is to drive home the point that we need to accept failure if we want progress or innovation. So that's what that's like, number one. Number two, which comes from my background as an organizational psychologist is that organizations need to improve their learning from failure. So and this is something this is something that gets gets tricky right away. Because you often hear about Silicon Valley, oh, they're like, oh, they fail forward and this fearlessness, and that they aren't good. I mean, they're really good at accepting failure, but they're horrible at learning from failure. So if they got the one part, right, but it didn't get the second part, right. Not any more than any other organization. And that's quite interesting. So the, if organizations want, on the one hand they need if they want innovation, and think that that's important, which just about any organization on planet Earth thinks they need to accept failure. There's not there's not really an option there. But learning from failure does require a willingness to discuss to talk about it, to spend some time and resources trying to dream some kind of learning from it, because it's, it's seldom straightforward. It's easy to learn from success and, and best practices. But it's really difficult and tricky to learn from failure. We can it's not it's various, let's not.
Steve Statler 13:05
Why would I actually argue that it's sometimes it can be hard to learn from success, can't it? Yeah, sorry. Yeah, that's a really horrible line here. But you know, you're in Spain, and in San Diego, we should be grateful as any line. So I would argue I've met a whole bunch of people that have worked for successful organizations, and they've learned the wrong lessons from it. They think the success is all due to them. And what they did, and actually, what they did is completely irrelevant to the success. Yeah, I always, I always do push ups at the start of my day, and I work for, for Google, and it's clearly, you know, that's the thing that's making me successful. No, it's because you've got Google on your business card, and everyone's clamoring to talk to you. And therefore your opportunity space is massive, and you can be an idiot and actually, probably do reasonably well. So, but anyway, let's get back to is there a company or are there companies that you've seen that are really good at failure, as in a accepting it and be maybe the hardest thing which is you've put your finger on which is learning learning from it?
Dr. Samuel West 14:21
Yeah. Okay. This is this is a trite example. But Amazon, I mean, I can't think of a single big, big company that is just kicks ass. So just when, when it comes to both accepting failure, understanding the role of failure for their success, and learning from it, and then adapting to it, they they're just phenomenal. And there's something I mean, Google or alphabet is also I mean, they're really good at accepting failure. But if you look at their, and their huge list of failed innovations, you could argue that Google is great at initiating innovation, but they're pretty bad at actually maintaining any of that, or, or bringing them to market and being profitable on those on the most exciting innovations. So they, I mean, I'm not in a position to say Google isn't learning from their failures, but considering how many failures they have, they should learn a bit more, you would think, yeah, where? Yeah,
Steve Statler 15:37
well, so if I look at Amazon, and that embracing of failure at my, you know, my intuitive sense, and I don't know, is Jeff Bezos just happens to be a genius, and therefore, he looks at his organization. I'm not sure if he embraces failure, I'm just trying to imagine myself going to Jeff Bezos and screwed up.
Dr. Samuel West 16:01
Steve Statler 16:03
Yeah. But it seems like one way to learn from failure is have a genius in a leadership position. And you can either have those or you don't, is that if if I was a general manager or CEO, you know, other than paying attention and thinking about it myself? Is there an end and not firing people or humiliating them for failure? Is there anything else I can do other than steering the culture? Is there like a debrief process? Or what what would you advise?
Dr. Samuel West 16:37
Yeah, I mean, one of them, me, if you look at sort of the, if you look at it as as, as behavior, I mean, taking risks, meaningful risks, and being willing to discuss your own failure, the failure of your team or the company. And there's two aspects. One, obviously, if, if, if the organization is punishing, penalizing, risk taking by penalizing failure, then obviously that behavior is going to decrease period. That's just basic psychology. Yeah. And then you have the second aspect, which, you know, the concept of psychological safety brilliantly illustrates is that if you have a culture within a team, that allows people to take interpersonal risk to, to, you know, ask stupid questions, to be does uncomfortable questions, and feel safe within that team, but they won't be punished for that, that does increase a willingness to take risks that are can be meaningful. And it also increases the ability and willingness for those team members to to actually learn from their failures. So it's something about creating, creating a culture of this sense of safety within the team. It's not lack of accountability. So it definitely not that you're highly accountable. But you are also there's an acceptance that when when you take big risks, or when you do things that are new for you or the organization are extremely challenging, then you will most likely fail. And that there's, there's it's not built into the system or the infrastructure, their reinforcement structure of the organization that that will be punished. I don't I don't know if I'm babbling here. But
Steve Statler 18:33
it's good. I'm sorry. I'm just really thinking about what you're doing what you're saying. Yeah.
Dr. Samuel West 18:38
I just think like, the most important thing is the culture. But the culture is also decided by, you know, reward mechanisms within organization. For example, the problem with one of the James March, one of the biggest organizational psychologist, he's like, yeah, one of the, one of the problems is because of the way organizations are built, this is like bigger organizations, not not startups, necessarily, is that it's sort of a refinement process that the selection process is always people who are who don't take risks and don't fail. So at the top, you have people who, you know, at least traditionally are risk averse and are prone to penalizing people who do take those risks. Yeah. I think if you guys want
Steve Statler 19:28
as a leader, if you can talk about your own failures, and kind of with humility and honesty, and that's probably a good thing, isn't it?
Dr. Samuel West 19:37
I mean, and that's one thing that we found, I mean, when it comes to my research on organizational playfulness is that and in we'll get to that later. But I mean, a big part of play is exploration and experimentation. And those are two super failure, high failure rate of those two behaviors are I activities. And if the only way you can get people in an organization to take to be willing to experiment and explore is if the leaders are demonstrating it by a role modeling it by example. There is no other way.
Steve Statler 20:16
That's, that's good. So I'm one thing I wanted to ask you about this Silicon Valley Maxim about fail fast, fail fast. And everyone's like, yeah, of course, we should fail fast. Let's all do that. Can you fail too fast? Do you think? Because? I personally think so. I think, yeah, I think it's great that we're embracing the possibility of failure, we're taking risks. And we don't like do the whole Waterfall development, we put something out there. And we see if it works, that's clearly good. It's hard to argue against that. But what I see is, people try something and something goes wrong, and maybe they lose a little face, and then they give up. And that's to me, that's just as bad. Finally, to folks.
Dr. Samuel West 21:01
Yeah. I mean, there's one of the founders of FuckUp Nights. I remember her name. I can't, I can't remember her name. But I just saw, like a TED talk or something by her. And she said that she doesn't want people to fail more. Because that's, that's a stupid, I mean, that in business context. Now, don't fail more. But I want people to fail better. Like, I want you to fail mindfully. So when you fail fast, you're not mindful, you're not learning from it. There's nothing to be gained by that only loss. But if you can fail mindfully, then you can learn from it. And then hopefully, that won't be a failure.
Steve Statler 21:47
Yeah, I think so. Mindful failure. What I'm really saying is persistence, and ignorant because you're not scared of failure, you say, Oh, well, we tried this, we're trying to achieve this goal, this product, and this didn't work. Let's not scrap the product, let's think about why and wrong. Let's fix it. And then let's experiment some more. Kind of, that's what I'm arguing for at least.
Dr. Samuel West 22:13
Yeah, so I just want to add something to that. The, there's something really useful about having an x. So if you look at processes within the innovation sort of severe in organizations, where if you can, if you have a sort of an experimental mindset, then I mean, if you if you say we have these goals, we want to reach these, your these results. Failure is much better if you fail early on in a project rather than late because, you know, it's cheaper, and it's easier, and there's, you know, that's prestige, etc, less invested in it, why not fail boldly, when, you know, in the initial stages of of, of these projects, and take great leaps, and then fails horribly, when it doesn't like cost the organization? Their life? Yeah.
Steve Statler 23:13
Dr. Samuel West 23:14
increased the failure rate early on in experimentation, which is, you know, okay, so colalillo does lead in that in that aspect. But I see it with with organization. I mean, I primarily work with European companies. And they, they invest all their innovation, so that the end, so they do they do a traditional sort of, what do we need, what the market needs? We have its new product development, they start early on deciding what, what how the end result is of what is supposed to be like, rather than experimenting early, they experiment late, and then failure hurts much more.
Steve Statler 23:53
That totally makes sense. Well, I think we could talk about this for hours. And I'd actually like to, but so I think we've actually succeeded, and talking about embracing failure. So well done us. But we failed to talk about the lesson, you know, what are the principal causes of failure? And you must have seen that are there like a handful of the things that the patterns that you see of that drive failure?
Dr. Samuel West 24:22
There's a, there's a quote by Leo Tolstoy, the Russian author, and he wrote in one of his novels, he wrote, All happy families are a lot. But every unhappy family is unhappy in their own specific way, or their own special way. And there's some I was like, that's great, because that really applies to failure as well within innovation because, you know, most of the successful innovations, they're sort of gap. They're like, right, but it If you look at the failed innovations, there are so many ways to fail. Like there's, there's, you can fail in ways you didn't even think was possible. And so my, my standard answer to that question is that that's what I think makes it so interesting. What makes failures. So interesting is that there's, there's really, there are sort of categories and sort of groupings or reasons of why why innovation is failed. But for the most part, there isn't actually really. And I think that's fine. I wish I wish I could say, yeah, here's the top four reasons, but I have some, I mean, one is hubris. If, if, if a company is too confident in their product, or their technology, and just develop something that nobody needs, or wants
Steve Statler 25:57
an example of that, just
Dr. Samuel West 26:01
I mean, I mean, one example is Google Glass. Yes. I mean, what, what were you supposed to use that thing for? Actually, it was cool, but what what's the function zero? And it took them how many years to actually 2013? Yeah, eight years to get it working. I mean, that was the first thing that came to my mind. But there's, there's, I mean, also also, when there's an overconfidence in amongst the leaders of the organization, and they don't listen to maybe the engineers or the sales people or people on the on the factory floor. One on One would be preferred. So if it's a historical example, Ford's biggest failure, one of the biggest failures, it was a new car named after Ford's either son or grandson I can't remember for them. So in 1950s, there was a lot of technological innovation. But primarily, there was an innovation in the forms of like, you can buy it and I think it was 27 and different varieties of card for that board. And today, I'm taking for granted but then that was that was new and crazy. And Ford was so confident they just bulldoze this thing through. They had their own entertainment show with Frank Sinatra, they were pushed, the Edsel was a guaranteed success, and they forced their dealers to buy huge amounts of Ford for its own cars in advance. They were like skeptical, like what's, you know, this isn't quite right. For you. It was like overconfident. And sure enough, it failed. And it was one of the most embarrassing failures for the company. And that could have been possibly avoided, had Ford listened to their dealers listen to the customers.
Steve Statler 27:57
But I think the fascinating thing about this subject is for every reason that you come up, you can come up with for failure, that can also be a reason for success. Like, you know, as I was reading an interview with you, that was published recently, which is very good. And they, they talked about the about what you describe the hubris of the leader, basically, there's this maniacal following of the leader. But then you look at like, Apple, and, you know, the run by a dictator, in the old days, doing things in a very unorthodox way. You know, the normal functionaries would not support it, but they did it because basically, he did it. So on one hand, you have leaders who make bets. And sometimes they make good bets. And sometimes they make bad bets. And so that's like, that's,
Dr. Samuel West 28:56
that's, I mean, it took for any example of failure. In this context, you can always twist it like, Yeah, but you know it for for for the next iteration of that innovation, it was a huge success. Or products being launched too early, and they were just ahead of their time. Or too late. There's so many variables, like if you graph this out variables, there's so many sort of variables here, that it's impossible to plot this.
Steve Statler 29:31
Yeah, I would argue, here's my argument. Timing is one of the biggest causes you got the wrong timing is one of the biggest causes of failure, because
Dr. Samuel West 29:40
we're already too late. Yes.
Steve Statler 29:43
So the answer isn't the earlier and the answer isn't big. It's be smart about timing and really think about the risks you're taking. Because because I was Did you see the documentary about General Magic? It's it's there. Everyone's got time to watch. Oh, interesting. Okay, I think it's on Netflix. Super interesting, basically, General Magic. And the fact that, you know, they're not well known is amazing because they basically invented the smartphone. The problem is they did it 10 years before. It was a it was a spin off from it was the Newton's Alter Ego, basically two projects, one in Apple, which is the Newton, one outside of Apple. And, and you look at this playbook. And it's it's actually it's, you read the playbook that they wrote. And they describe the use cases and the user interfaces. And it's like, Oh, my God, that's what we're doing. Now only this was like 20 years ago. And the hardware just wasn't good enough. It wasn't good enough. And, and many other things, they set expectations that were unrealistic with partners. They had amazing partners, and then they all peeled off because the expectation, so it, I think you'll really enjoy it. But it kind of reminded me, I don't know if you've watched the Bill Gates, TED talk about viruses. And yeah, a few years ago, and he predicts everything that we're all going through. At the moment, it was that same feeling. It's like, Oh, my God, deja vu. I want to talk a bit about the beacon ecosystem, because that's kind of what we do. And I know you're not a Bluetooth beacon guy, but you deal with gadgets, and that sort of thing. And, you know, I think that the Bluetooth beacon ecosystem could be regarded as a failure, because it had one of those things that you would drive Wow. Well, I think the hype was massive, it was like, and people misunderstood the premise. So Apple came out with the iBeacon. And it was going to change the world. And every retailer said they were going to deploy iBeacons in all the stores, and they didn't realize this is actually a lot harder. And so, you know, the challenges of scaling, you know, Apple executed very well, they put beacons in all of their stores, and their expectations were very modest. They just wanted a welcome message that successful. Yeah, for them success was we want a welcome message when you cross the threshold of the Apple Store, rather than when you drive into the carpark of a mall. And actually, you probably aren't going to go into an Apple store at all. So they would do that they had a geofence technology. And it just wasn't working. And so they developed the beacon. And lo and behold, you you use it today, you run the apple shopping app. And it welcomes you when you enter the store and it switches into the other mode. But we see, you know, those of us who are like, ah, anything Apple does, it's amazing. And so people will stay trying to do indoor location positioning down to a meter and the technology just couldn't do it. It was so so I think that was the expectation thing. But my argument is, actually this is spun off. So many, a lot of companies have failed. So there's probably most of the startups that raised venture capital tried something failed, but what I've seen is they've pivoted, and they're actually doing things that are very successful as a result. So, you know, there's, there's companies like, there's a company called in market, they're based up in California. And, you know, people looked at them as a beacon company, they, you could buy an in market beacon, but they're actually an analytics company, they've turned into an amazing analytics company. And I look at Willie arts as an example. So this kind of postage stamp size tags that basically a computer. So I don't think we would be doing what we're doing if it hadn't been for the beacon ecosystem, which he knows which will be successful. I think we will we have amazing momentum. But so that's, you know, my view on the ecosystem.
Dr. Samuel West 34:21
I mean, the expectations, I think that we did sort of touch on that. But if you look at many of the stories of failure in the museum, the, you know, something that could possibly predict failure is definitely when the expectations are far higher than anything you could achieve. And that I think, when I talked about Hoover Hoover is that was one aspect of it, but just to promise whether it's investors or customers or partners, something that you can't deliver is a good, pretty good recipe for failure. And it doesn't matter if you're a startup. If if you can't deliver and maybe get one shot or two, but you don't get three shots.
Steve Statler 35:05
Right. And I think, you know, I think that is a very fair assertion that you're making. But I my counter argument is it's unnecessary. That failure that you identified is a necessary part of spinning up an ecosystem. Because unless you get 100 companies to try it, you won't figure out the 10 ideas that are good. And then the three companies in those 10 companies that will become the guerrillas that will dominate. That's my, that's my story. And I'm sticking
Dr. Samuel West 35:38
with nobody, but nobody wants to be, I mean, evolution, the whole driver for life on Earth is mutations and what is it like 0.0001% actually survive? Right? Nobody wants to be those other 99%. So I mean, I think I mean, that's like, the expectations for new technology does have to be high, you got to get people excited about it. But there's also something about that sort of when it when it just gets saturated, and people lose interest, like you can see now with, you know, AI blockchain. It's like, okay, all right. Another person is in a talk about it's just boring, because they over promised. Yeah, anyone as a people like me, who don't really understand it, within the within the machine learning community, of course, they get but but up to outsiders, they weigh over promise. And it's just like, Okay, it's not. Yeah, that was that was another one of those hyped up technologies, which still has massive potential, obviously, but the that that's now you know, that segmentation is happening now that the hype is is decreasing. So maybe it's a similar situation there with the beacon technology?
Steve Statler 37:01
I think so. And I think we'll, you know, fail fast. There's actually stuff this story hasn't played out. I think there's other things what Apple and Google is still doing with the technology is super interesting. But I think, you know, creative destruction as part of capitalism, we celebrate it. And evolution is a reality that some people acknowledge and celebrate. But it's a recipe for success, not for happiness, right? If you're on the wrong side of destruction, it's miserable. It's horrible. So I want to do, we just got a couple of minutes left, I want to switch and we've talked a bit about lessons that can be learned and how to deal with failure. And we've talked a bit about the Bluetooth beacon ecosystem and, and failure and I have a rosy view of where this leads still. But I want to go back to your roots in play, and how did you get from writing a doctoral thesis on playing to where you are now? And, and just to make this a really big question? You know, tell us kind of what your opinion is of play in the office in high tech companies, because it's a bit of a bugbear for me, on one hand, I like Lego probably more than is healthy for the average adult. I have my tribute to the Italian same meaning.
Dr. Samuel West 38:32
Same adults you mean, okay, sorry.
Steve Statler 38:36
But the thing that I hate is the tokenism which I think you, you call it play washing? Yeah, so let's, I've rambled a bit. What is play washing, tell us about that.
Dr. Samuel West 38:51
Pay washing is the same thing is green washing it, it's when a company and this is very frequently you see this with the with startups, where they say we're so fun, we drink beer on Fridays, and we have ping pong tables in the lunch room. And we're so awesome where and then that's all just just sort of an image. That's not real. Look at our slide. You know, we were inspired by Google's headquarters. So we have a slide but in now we use it to store bookkeeping. So it's sort of like pretending to have this, this place for a genuinely playful work environment when it's when it's not. I saw that it's still a trend. I still see examples of that. And it's it does. The company does service and it does play at the service. I think there's, I mean, play is so what's so fascinating about play is that you can't force anybody to do it, you know? So as soon as, you know, your your your boss, or somebody in authority says, now you have to play, and God dammit, you're gonna like it too, then all of a sudden it doesn't, it just magically destroys that sort of the magical sphere play, because it has to be voluntary and forced play that's forced is play opposed. And you can see this in any kind of team building exercises, or corporate, you know, choreographed play, where, you know, now we're going to do this, and we're going to do it because it's fun, I'm going to do it because you're going to enjoy it. And then people, they react to it, like, No, you can't force me, and you can't. So it has to be volunteer play has to be voluntary, it has to be self motivated. And I would argue, and this is what gets me in trouble in organizations is that play is not result oriented. So and this is something that a lot of creativity, consultants, and engagement at work consultants get sort of caught up in is that you can make do activities in a playful way. But as soon as you put a layer of expectation of results or objectives, then play also kind of like, Yeah, well, then it also kind of destroys the magic of it. And that's the connection to experimentation and exploration, because those organizational activities or behaviors, they have to, you have to temporarily suspend sort of organizational objectives to do that. And that requires, I mean, to be able to play and have a playful approach to your work, doesn't mean, you know, screwing around, doing completely irrelevant things. It means having an approach to work into those tasks, that you do it in a fun way, in a in an explorative, experimental way, where if you fail, it's still okay, it's acceptable. And there's, it's impossible to force, you know, a person to play. And it's impossible, I would say, to take play and put it into an organizational context. And try to, you know, restrain it with those regular corporate restrictions and parameters, you have to let it be there. And you have to accept the fact that it doesn't work. It's not focused on the organizational results or objectives. And that's what I think is the magic of it. In that sort of that area, you're allowed to fail because you're not working, directed. Perfectly efficiently working towards that objective. You're you're taking a little pause here to to
Steve Statler 42:59
play with it. Very good. Well, Dr. Samuel west of the Museum of failure, I declare this interview a success. You joined up, play with failure. We managed to make it work the lines but a little bit bad, but it's very cool. See, I'm glad that you're safe. And well, and thanks very much for joining us. You just have to think of what three songs you would take on a trip to Mars. Three. Yeah.
Dr. Samuel West 43:38
I would take I'm obsessed with the right now. I'm obsessed with the Norwegian electronic bank. All right. So they sent me the most beautiful news and Roy picks up our our OYSO PP. I think it means I think it means like, magic mushroom or something. I'm not sure what it is. And
Steve Statler 44:08
if you had to like one song, can you name a song or doesn't? Ah,
Dr. Samuel West 44:14
actually doesn't. I mean, one of them is called What else is there?
Steve Statler 44:17
Okay. Very good.
Dr. Samuel West 44:19
And another one is called the Forsaken cowboy. I think I might be mixing them together.
Steve Statler 44:29
That's cool. So that's one so you got your Norwegian is it like heavy metal or not?
Dr. Samuel West 44:35
It's like, it's not dance electronica but it's sort of it's an electronic music. I can't describe it.
Steve Statler 44:47
Alright, well, we'll maybe hear a little bit if we can find it on Spotify, which I assume we can. So we'll
Dr. Samuel West 44:53
definitely send to them. I'll send you the link
Steve Statler 44:57
to fantastic. So that's why You got two left.
Dr. Samuel West 45:02
Um, I also like, Okay, this is the most beautiful song like I've heard, and I love I can listen to it as much as possible is an Ed Brown. I think she's also no we didn't I don't know why. I have no other connection to Norway there. But she seems a remake of hero by tickets Beyonce or something one of the big stars, just as a remake of it. And it's just, it's just so beautiful. I can't believe it's disturbs me. The third one? Oh, wow. Third one. Oh. Okay. So David Leitch.
Steve Statler 45:54
David Lynch, David.
Dr. Samuel West 45:56
Yeah. Director, David Lynch has an on Spotify. I think it's called. I'm not sure. But I think it's called beside. And he does one song with Nicky Lee, a Danish singer, pop star, whatever. And she and they do a collaboration. That's it's, it's called I'm waiting here. I think it's, I'm waiting here. I'll send you that link as well. Absolutely amazing. And it's David Lynch. You're like he does music? Yeah. The guy's crazy. Wonderful.
Steve Statler 46:30
Impressive. When you when you Yeah, the Renaissance people like Mark Moran, who I really enjoy his podcast. He's, he's a great comic. But he also plays the guitar is pretty good. And some impressive instruments. I've struggled with the guitar. So I'm actually not at home. I'm in my mother's house in in California at the moment. And so she has a recorder. Just you can just about see me. I think it's snowing right. Now I Okay. Maybe if this thing carries on, then I'll have the time to do it. But at the moment, I actually think they're super busy. It's like, where's this free time I'm supposed to be getting.
Dr. Samuel West 47:21
I mean, I mean, I thought the two is the lock that it's been here in Spain. It's been a car last travel time. I think it's been 12 days already. Yeah. And now they just extended it by another 15 days. So it's gonna be a month total. And first, the first few days. I was like, Okay, this is kind of exotic. And it's kind of like, oh, this is novel. But then I got old and I was so unproductive. And I just surprised myself with my level of unemployment. Then, and then yeah, after the first five or six days now, I haven't been as productive and busy for a long time. Yeah, it's great.
Steve Statler 48:09
Very good. Well, every cloud is they say has a silver lining.