Interested in understanding and analyzing failure?
Join the conversation on Linkedin

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Microsoft Flops and Failures

Microsoft is one of the most successful companies ever - few people worldwide (likely not including third world...) complete a day of work without touching or using something that is somehow based on Microsoft technology - except maybe a handful of die-hard Apple groupies.

But along the way, as we all know and realize all too well, Microsoft has managed to fail miserably, again and again - and to fail in market spaces it should have understood better than anyone else on the planet...

Here are some "nostalgic" :-) examples of Microsoft flops and failures:

1) 1982-1990 - Windows 1.0, all versions up and leading to Windows 3.0 (for a brief history of the Windows O/S - click here)
2) 1995 - Microsoft Bob...According to Fast Company: "Childish, convoluted, ridiculous, despised." Yup. Part of an entire strategy called "Microsoft Home" that flopped badly at the time; IMHO it was also before its time, and before the hardware to support Redmond's vision existed - or was commercially viable...
3) 1997 - Clippy aka "Office Assistant" - probably the most ridiculed tech product in history.
4) 1998 - the infamous "Blue screen of death" - now, is that any way to treat a customer??
5) 2002 - Mira Smart Display - personally, had never even heard of this one...
6) 2003 - Windows Mobile - I was invited to and attended the Silicon Valley launch in San Jose. Looked exciting, the launch certainly was... But it was deathly, deathly slow... Quickly crushed by a slew of more advanced and better designed operating systems from RIM and Apple (and later also Android from Google). Killed in 2010.
7) 2006 - Zune. Brought out their own MP3 player only about eight years after the RIO MP300 (a device I had bought at Fry's, used for a couple of weeks and foolishly returned. With only about 60 minutes worth of music it wasn't practical - but I wouldn't mind owning it for history's sake...). For a history of MP3 devices check out Wikipedia - actually harks back to 1981!!
8) 2007 -Windows Vista....yikes....

Of course there was also Win95, Win NT...and if we dig deep we'll be sure to find a handful of additional flops.

Microsoft will soon be celebrating four decades of tech leadership, believe it or not.

Just goes to show you that to create a legacy of success - you have to try and try and try, and inevitably you will fail. Many times over, if you try hard enough. The important thing is to know to pick up the pieces, learn your lessons, and keep ploughing forward.

Comments? Hit the comment button below, or, better yet - join the conversation on the Linkedin Anatomy of Failure group.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Collection of Quotes on Failure and Success

"A Quote-a-day keeps failure away..." :-)
Erik A. Steiner, Innovator and Entrepreneur

Oct 23, 2013

"Failure isn't fatal, but failure to change might be."
John Wooden, American Basketball player and coach

Oct 22, 2013

"Success is never permanent, and failure is never final."
Mike Ditka, former American football NFL player, television commentator, and coach

Oct 21, 2013

"Make failure your teacher, not your undertaker."
Zig Ziglar, Motivational Speaker

Oct 20, 2013

"Failure is a detour not a dead end street."
Zig Ziglar, Motivational Speaker

Oct 19, 2013

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."
Pablo Picasso, Artist

Oct 16, 2013

"Failure is the price of excellence."
Leonard Pitts, Jr., Pulitzer prize winning commentator

Oct 12, 2013

"We learn from failure, not from success!"
Bram Stoker, Author (Dracula!)

Oct 11, 2013

"When I was young, I observed that nine out of 10 things I did were failures, so I did 10 times more work."
George Bernard Shaw, Playwright

Oct 10, 2013

"Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn't really matter.”
Dwight L Moody, Evangelist

Oct 9, 2013

"I thrive on failure. I thrive on things that are not perfect. It sends me back into the ring to get it right.”
Tom Ford, Designer

September 8th 2013

"Persistence can change #failure into extraordinary achievement."
Matt Biondi, Olympic Athlete, Swimmer

Dec 19, 2012

"Many people dream of success. To me succes can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents the one percent of your work that results from the ninety-nine percent that is called failure."
Soichiro Honda, Engineer, Founder of Honda Motor Company (aka "Honda")

As quoted in The Power of Failure: 27 Ways to Turn Life's Setbacks into Success

Dec 15, 2012

"Failure is the foundation of success, and the means by which it is achieved."
Lao Tzu, Philosopher

As quoted in The Power of Failure: 27 Ways to Turn Life's Setbacks into Success

Dec 14, 2012

"The Achilles heel of failure: hindsight is 20/20."
Erik A. Steiner, Innovator and Entrepreneur

Dec 13, 2012

This time, a poem... IF by Rudyard Kipling


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling, short-story writer, poet, novelist

Dec 12, 2012

"Only he who does nothing makes no mistakes."
French Proverb

As quoted in The Power of Failure: 27 Ways to Turn Life's Setbacks into Success

Dec 9, 2012

"He that is overcautious will accomplish little."
Friedrich von Schiller, Poet, Philosopher, Historian and Playwright

As quoted in The Ten Commandments for Business Failure

Dec 8, 2012

"For this is the tragedy of man-circumstances change, but he doesn't."
Machiavelli, Historian, Politician, Diplomat, Philosopher, Humanist and Writer

As quoted in The Ten Commandments for Business Failure

Dec 2, 2012

"In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure."
Bill Cosby, Comedian

Dec 1, 2012

Referring to every well-educated person, Charles Kettering, one of America's greatest inventors and innovators of all time, said, " is not a disgrace to fail, and that he must analyze each failure to find its cause...must learn how to fail intelligently. Failing is one of the greatest arts in the world. One fails towards success."
Charles Kettering, Inventor
Quoted in Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins

Nov 12, 2012

"Being successful is kind of dull."
Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari
Quoted in Whoever Makes the Most Mistakes Wins
Nolan Bushnell

Nov 11, 2012

Tom Crouch writing about the Wright Brothers...
"They were as excited about failure as they were by success."
(from The Bishop's Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright)
The Wright Brothers
Tom Crouch

Nov 10, 2012

"One must be God to be able to distinguish successes from failures and not make mistakes."
Anton Chekov

Nov 9, 2012

"Good men are still liable to make mistakes, and are sometimes warmly engaged in errors, which they take for divine truths, shining in their minds with the clearest light."
John Locke

Oct 29, 2012

"If there is a single tragic flaw that mars our biggest enterprises, it is conservatism - the failure to fail, and fail big, in an era of unprecedented volatility and ambiguity."
Tom Peters Oct 17, 2012

"Failure in Innovation - it's a price worth paying."
Tim Harford (from: Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure . New York, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2011)

Oct 15, 2012

Man has been writing of failure since biblical times. Here we go back to the time of Aristotle, to a controversial quote that I do not believe does justice to reality:

"It is possible to fail in many ways...while to succeed is possible only in one way."
Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, II, 6

Oct 14, 2012

"I was never afraid of failure; for I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest."

John Keats, one of the greatest and most important poets in the history of mankind - born in 1795, he died so so young, only 26. One hesitates to think what Keats would have accomplished in a full lifetime...the following are ruminations from a letter written to one James Hessey on October 8, 1818:

"The Genius of Poetry must work out its own salvation in a man: It cannot be matured by law & precept, but by sensation ad watchfulness in itself - That which is creative must create itself - In Endymion, I leaped headlong into the Sea, and thereby have become better acquainted with the Soundings, the quicksands, & the rocks, than if I had stayed upon the green shore, and piped a silly pipe, and took tea & comfortable advice. I was never afraid of failure; for I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest."
John Keats

Oct 13, 2012

Mark Zbaracki, at the time a professor at NYU, wrote a nice little piece titled "Success, Failure and the Race of Truth" for the Journal of Management Inquiry back in September of 2006. Thought I'd pull a nice quote from there:

"...those moments when life sends us sliding along the pavement or tumbling over the handlebars are gifts, opportunities for clarity..."
Mark J. Zbaracki

Oct 12, 2012

Here's John Adams writing on failure in 1755 (!):
(I received this newest volume from the Library of America today - the man was only twenty years old when he inferred and wrote the following and much more. Incredible. The strange spelling, capitalizations etc. as in the original text)

"If we look into History we shall find some nations rising from contemptible beginnings, and spreading their influence, 'till the whole Globe is subjected to their sway. When they have reach'd the summit of Grandeur, some minute and unsuspected Cause commonly affects their Ruin, and the Empire of the world is transferr'd to some other place. Immortal Rome was at first but an insignificant Village, inhabited only be a few abandoned Ruffins, but by degrees it rose to a stupendous Height, and excell'd in Arts and Arms all the nations that praeceeded it. But the demolition of Carthage (what one should think would have establish'd it in supream dominion) by removing all danger, suffer'd to sink into debauchery, and made it att length an easy prey to Barbarians."
John Adams, Revolutionary Writings, 1755-1775

"There is the greatest practical benefit in making a few failures early in life."
T H Huxley, On Medical Education (1870)

Oct 10, 2012

"83 percent of Chief Executive Officers fail."
Lucy Kellaway, writing for the Financial Times Oct 9, 2012

"Failure is good. It's fertilizer. Everything I've learned about coaching I've learned from making mistakes."
Rick Pitino, NBA Coach

Oct 8, 2012 - Today I've decided to start up a compendium of my favorite quotes on failure - I'll be making a valiant attempt to post one-a-day (A quote a day keeps the failure away?? :-)

Here's the first one for you all - from the creator of Peter Pan no less:

"We are all failures - at least, all the best of us are."
J. M. Barrie

Just came across this on Gotham so here's another one for today:

“Ever tried.
Ever failed.
No matter.
Try again.
Fail again.
Fail better."

Samuel Beckett

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

In an excellent NYT article from January 2011 Jay Goltz lays out his top 10 reasons for small business failure.

The short list (for the even shorter list just follow through the underlined phrases...):

  • Business is mathematically challenged - i.e. insufficient demand, too much competition.
  • Owners do not step down when time comes.
  • Sometimes less is more.
  • Poor accounting.
  • Cash flow (btw #1 reason businesses fail overall...).
  • Operational mediocrity.
  • Operational inefficiency.
  • Dysfunctional management.
  • Lack of succession plan.
  • Declining market.

    For a deeper analysis, head over to Goltz's excellent article + bonus insightful comments from his readers.