Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Tide Pods and Foiling the Fans of Failure

I saw a quote one time that really drew the line in the sand for me, in as far as the innovation debate goes. I mean, people can disagree over certain tactics, methodology, whatever and not be worthy of scathing insults. However, when it comes to the topic of failure, that’s when I draw my sword and scratch a line in the sand. If you’re caught on the other side of that line from me, then you’re in big trouble because you represent either the dupes, the stupid frickin’ morons that will repeat the most asinine buzzword phrases without thinking, or you’re one of the posers creating this crap and pushing it, to show how smart you are (NOT).

So what was this quote? It went something like “innovators have the duty to fail, fail fast, fail smart and fail often”. I can’t remember the idiot’s name who said it, but it did cause me to wonder just how long, and how it was even possible, that they had been able to keep their head up inside of that long, dark, tight and musky passageway without becoming brain dead. Oh wait, that quote would indicate that they ARE brain dead! You see, anyone wanting you to fail, is not your friend. I am. I don’t want you to fail, unless of course if you have some evil plot to take over the world or ruin people’s lives, or – well, you get the picture.

Failure is not good, failure is bad. If someone is telling you that you should learn to fail, it’s is only because they have no idea in the entire universe on how to tell you to succeed. Or, they’re just a stupid frickin’ idiot that is passing off what they heard because they lack the necessary grey matter to know bad advice when they hear it. I don’t care who it is pushing the idea either. The first sign, that you should get as far away from a innovation hypester as fast as possible, is the very first instant that they start talking about how to fail. That’s when you smile, politely excuse yourself and get the hell away from them. If they’re promoting failure, you can pretty much forget about having anything to do with them, because their minds aren’t on success.

I recently saw a blog where the blogger was pointing out how the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a great movie promoting the ideas of innovation. I hadn’t thought of that film much lately, except in passing, because I believe it was on one of the cable channels. I remember going to see it as a child at the theater when it came out, and how it featured a number of my favorite themes – creative eccentricity, the rewards for the individual from a free enterprise system, determination, and the righteous conflict against tyranny and evil. What the blog post reminded me of is how my mom laughed at the group of scientists and inventors who were couped up in the evil baron’s castle – assigned to replicating the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car. She would laugh and say, “Look at those poor, scroungy old men. They’ve been in there so long trying to make that car and haven’t a clue about what they’re doing, – ‘talking about ‘the roses of success’. They haven’t a chance of being successful at all”. And of course, at the end of the song they perform, about perseverance in the invention process, the car that they’re attempting modify falls apart, emphasizing the fact that, no matter how much they try to rationalize it or put a brave face and a stiff upper lip on their predicament, they are total and complete, utter failures with no chance of success. How could they be? They had no idea how to make a car like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. In fact, they had never even seen it before.

There is a deliberate sense of irony in the scene that the blogger completely missed. The blogger thought that it was a great scene because it was pushing the idea of not being stopped by failure. Yes, perseverance is important, but what is more important is knowing what the hell you’re supposed to be doing in the first place. Those scientists didn’t! Seriously. In the film, the man that the evil baron wants is not the older gentleman that he has snatched up and tossed in with the old scatter brain scientists. No, it’s his son,  played by my favorite screen father of all time, Dick Van Dyke, but the baron doesn’t know that. Dick’s the one with the real flying car.

So what’s wrong with this whole idea of smart failing, an oxymoronic term cooked up by one Stefan Lindegaard (whom I’ll be taking to task in another post)? If you apply the idea of failure to most professions, then it is the thing that holds you back from success. It has a price that comes with it. If you try to down play it, then you’re setting yourself up for disaster. But forget my opinion, let’s look at some facts. GM had to recall million of cars because of ignition failures. There was property damage involved as well as bodily injury. This failure will cost GM millions and I’d love to see  one of the failure promoters, explain why this was a good thing, to someone who’s car had been effected by this recall, or worse. But since then, there’s been something even more disastrous, and I’m going to analyze it very closely.

You may not have known this, but the boys and girls in the laundry detergent biz have been busy, innovating

Ah, but there’s something more here than just product quality. If you haven’t guessed it yet, here’s a hint –

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s have been thousands of cases where children have gotten their little hands on Tide Pods and have become ill. In the case of this one 7 month old, the little boy died – Now this is a perfect case of what I’m talking about. The failure fans would say, “Well, this is certainly an opportunity to learn from this unfortunate situation and rethink packaging”. There are even some people who blame the parents for not being sure that the product was out of reach of children at all times. Before I comment, let’s listen to this real-life mom explain how this product works, as her children play with it nearby (watch how many times one of them puts it up to their mouth). Notice how she makes sure that this new product isn’t just viewed as a new product, but an INNOVATION!:

Oh look – even their commercial looks colorful and sounds like there’s children singing in the background –

Oh, but guess what? There’s been a FAILURE!

And of course this kind of failure lends itself to potential for a lawsuit –

Well, it would appear that the laundry companies are learning a lesson from their latest “innovation”, but not to worry because after all, this failure did happen pretty fast and it wasn’t even a complete failure after all. The product works, it’s just that the packaging failed…

So, we know what happened, but how would it have been any different if I, or someone I had trained, been involved? Well, if I had trained the innovation team, they never would have come up with this moronic idea in the first place. I’m not talking about the Pod but how it looks, was marketed, etc. Only an idiot would design a potential poisonous substance that would be around children, intentionally or not, so that it looks like candy. In fact, I would consider firing anyone that would have brought such a product idea to my intention. Why so harsh? Because it is a clear and apparent indication that that person has absolutely no historical frame of reference, that they must have been living with their face glued to the Cartoon Network or some other entertainment channel non-stop for the last twenty years. Making adult products appear cartoonish or attractive to children has been a big no-no since the tobacco industry got smacked for things like the cartoon camel for Camel cigarettes.

The only way that that product design got out was that morons came up with the idea, morons did the design and morons OKed it. No other way. Period. My first thought, when I saw the stuff in someone’s home, was “Why the hell does this look like candy?”. It looked like it would be good to eat. It has a pleasant tactile quality and so I’d be thinking, “Who are we selling to this to? Teen moms who are only mature enough to be physically capable of getting pregnant? Don’t you realize that that would mean they’re not smart enough to keep this crazy crap away from their kids – even if we put it in bold type on the box?”

Here in lies one of the most insidious parts of the design, because it is everywhere on the web. Why is it that so many names of companies on the web and elsewhere sound like baby talk? Google, sounds like a cross between ‘goo-goo’ and ‘gurgle’. ‘Twitter’ sounds like what a child might call a bird chirping and ‘tweets’ sound like baby birds. It like those kids that did X and went to clubs with pacifiers in their mouths and stuffed animals on their backs are now running companies or the companies  are doing subliminals to get their business. So, is that why that one spot looks like something from a Saturday morning live action TV show from the 70s? In fact, the spot mirrors the typical way Target commercials used to look like, which were aimed at teens and young adults, and modeled after early 70s psychedelia:

So the Tide Pods look young, they come in what looks like a candy jar, which is a concept decision – not one based on utility or any other purpose, and it’s easy to get into. So, at that point, I’d be finding out who was responsible for the packaging, the idea, the marketing and I’d be getting some answers because this was a disaster in the waiting from the beginning and now, now there’s a dead little  boy involved as well as thousands of children that have become ill on not one but two continents. This is not rocket science folks – I know. I have friends who are actual rocket scientists and this isn’t it. This is what happens when you have people who have been told all their lives how dad blame smart they are and then they turn around and do something asinine like this, for obvious reasons. This is not just some dumb-ass mistake, like the decision to make new Coke and get rid of classic Coke so that everyone is stuck with that new stupid taste that some corporate jerk-off came up with. No. This is a series of bone headed decisions made by a gaggle of morons who decided “Yes, lets make the Pods look like candy and package them in a candy jar and make the commercial all psychedelic like something from a futuristic Willy Wonka set, so it’ll appeal to teen moms all across America. YEAAAAAH!” That’s what the marketing looks like to me. There’s no two moms at the laundry mat with one complaining about lugging her heavy detergent box with the basket of clothes and toddlers in tow, while other is all, “Oh Sally. You haven’t heard about these new, easy to use Tide Pods…?” Nope. Instead it looks like something that would be part of the background of Katy Perry video.

Every last one of those morons should’ve been forced to attend that child’s funeral and watch as the casket went into the ground while wearing headphones that play a voice track that said, “You see them putting the tiny casket in the ground? That baby should be playing in a sandbox, not lying in a box going into the dirt…And it’s all your fault” over and over again. Because all the adults were asleep at the wheel over at Tide, while morons played make believe, there’s now a little person who won’t get the chance to grow up and buy any Tide products, or anything else from parent company P&G,  because this one killed him because it was designed in a way that would be attractive to children.  There’s no one good excuse, let alone an answer that can excuse it. It’s inexcusable and unforgivable. But don’t take my word for it – give Paul Fox, the Proctor and Gamble guy you saw in the news video, a call at  513 983 3465 and you ask him how is it that they had a team of people who created a toxic product that they then designed, packaged and marketed, so that it would appeal to children that are too young to read. Let me know what asinine excuse he comes up with in the comments section. Please.

And just so there’s no misunderstanding here, I’m being deliberately harsh in my criticism because I have been in that position of product design before – where I had a potentially dangerous product that presented me with a number of issues to resolve so that no one would be harmed and I would’t get sued.  I designed solutions that were so sophisticated that when my attorney’s office at Porter, Wright, Morris, and Arthur had their product liability department look it over, they determined that not only had I done the appropriate thing to protect myself from a lawsuit, but that it had exceeded what the law required to a degree that they had never seen before. I know how to do this, folks, so I can say that people behind Tide Pods are idiots because they are. They should all be fired except for the people in the lab that made the detergent in the Pods. Everyone else should be given a pink slip because this little failure could cost Tide and Procter and Gamble some nice coin. It’s already given them negative exposure and they have to go through the expense of having to do package re-design when, if they had done it right in the first place, none of this would have happened. And if you think that the warnings on the box are enough to protect them from a lawsuit – you’re as clueless as they are. Why do you think those Porter Wright attorneys said that I had exceeded the product liability warning requirements at a level that they had never seen before? It’s because I thought of every potential contingency and had it covered, but in this case, Tide and Procter and Gamble aren’t covered. If I was an attorney, I’d be organizing as class action lawsuit against them because, from what I’ve seen, gross negligence is not out of the question here. At all. Again. This didn’t have to happen. It was designed to.

So that’s what failure looks like, folks. It gets people hurt, it wastes time and money and sometimes gets people killed. But in the name of innovation, the innovation hypesters are promoting failure as a value. Instead of teaching people how not to fail, these innovation hypesters promote failure and not being afraid to fail, because they themselves have failed to learn how to teach people how to think creatively so they innovate faster, better and without failing. And here’s the thing – it is actually possible to do that – if you know how. I do. I’ve done it. That’s why I’m so hard on these stupid jerks who have conned people into thinking that they’re “thought leaders” and have everything figured out. Huh, thought leaders – leading us to think what? To be so clueless that a child’s life ends before he could even have his 1st birthday?

So the next time you hear some stupid frickin’ moron talk about the value of failure, think about the little child going down that hole in a box and remember, when the next big failure happens, it could be your child or even you, but rest assured, the failure hypesters will keep on hyping…

Post Script:

I know that some of the data that I presented is over two years old, but here’s why it’s still relevant – “Although efforts have been introduced in recent years to raise awareness among parents and to make packaging design changes, it appears that the number of reports is continuing to increase. If the current trend continues, more than 11,000 reports will be received in 2014”.

Nothing’s over. P&G has refused to change the packaging enough. This is just the beginning…




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s