Failure done right – even corporate giants have to bite the bullet sometimes

  • Posted by Gerhard Pramhas
  • On 23. June 2017

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As early as the days of ancient Rome, it was well-known that “to err is human”, and to this day, nothing about that has changed. We fail in all stages of life, from early childhood to old age; all that matters is what you make of it. Today, I would like to tell you about a particularly controversial case of company failure.

Are you familiar with Apple eWorld?

The corporate giant Apple is among the most successful and influential companies of the present day. Apple stands for quality and always seems to be in tune with the times with its products. But this was not always the case, as is evidenced by the remarkable story of Apple eWorld:

In the 80s of the last century, Apple was launching a new project. The so-called Apple Link wich was later on called eWorld. The basic idea is easy to explain: Since interaction with the internet was not so widespread back then as it is today, the plan was for AOL to program basic software for Apple that would make the internet easier to use. Apple would have likely modified eWorld itself. The purpose was to achieve the greatest possible user friendliness.

Using completely graphic formatting, similar to a virtual city, it was intended to make using the internet possible even for those who had never dealt with it before. eWorld, therefore, contained various buildings that represented the different functions. At the virtual post office, for example, you could find your emails; there was a kiosk where you could access the latest news, and further such functions.

Unfortunately, Apple underestimated the development required for this service. The Windows version was eventually cancelled due to budget cuts.

Just 2 years after the “go-live”, Apple had to take the service off the market. Apple was able to collect 100,000 subscribers in total, and its biggest competitors Microsoft and AOL left no room for any further growth. For Apple, eWorld was not a business and was discounted.

The lesson learned from Apple’s failure

The moral of this story is simple: for an innovative company, failure is part of the daily business. All businesses, whether big or small, have failed product innovations to show along their path to success. Naturally, nobody strives to fail in the development process. Quite the opposite: as is demonstrated by the case above, it can burn through a great deal of money and nerves. However, it has also been proven that the learning curve never rises as sharply as it does following a failure. This is why I would advise you: if you fail, at least allow your company to draw the right conclusions from this failure, in order to become stronger, smarter and better afterwards.

Do you need support in learning from your failures, and are now motivated to really get going? Contact me!

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