Those Magnificent Men in Their Failing Machines

...or how a "litany of failed aircrafts" is a good metaphor of design iterations.

Read in "Hailing, Failing, and Still Sailing" by Richard Saul Wurman, a chapter of "Design Disasters: Great Designers, Fabulous Failures, and Lessons Learned":

"It made me think about the beginning of that wonderful film, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, in which you see a litany of failed aircraft. You laugh, but you also see how seriously involved everybody was in trying to fly. All the failure, all the things that didn't work, make you realize that the Wright brothers were really something. All the paths taken, all the good intentions, the logistics, the absurdities, all the hopes of people trying to fly testifying to the power we have when we refuse to quit.

There should be a museum dedicated to human invention failure. The only problem it would face would be its overnight success. In almost any scientific field, it would add enormously to the understanding of what does work by showing what doesn't work. In developing the polio vaccine, Jonas Salk spent 98 percent of his time documenting the things that didn't work until he found the thing that did."

Why do I blog this? Preparing a speech about failures led me to revisit my bookshelves. This chapter is great and I remember this very excerpts in the movie. As a kid, I used to watch this part again and again as I found it hilarious. More seriously, this excerpt is important in the sense that it reveals the notion of iterations in innovation.

A museum of human invention failure also strikingly connects with Paul Virilio's Museum of the Accident.