May 2, 2024 (18d ago)

From Failure to Success: Celebrated Product Turnarounds

Discover how some of the biggest brands transformed their failures into monumental successes, offering valuable lessons for startups.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
Strategy/Vision, OneTask
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Failure is not the opposite of success; it's a stepping stone towards it. This enduring truth in the business world has seen many companies transform their initial setbacks into significant achievements. Understanding these stories is crucial, especially for startups navigating the unpredictable waters of innovation. Today, we're exploring celebrated product failures that, with persistence and ingenuity, turned into hallmark successes.

The Art of the Pivot

Turning Tides through Innovation

Every product failure presents an opportunity for learning and growth. The key lies not just in identifying what went wrong, but in leveraging this newfound understanding to pivot towards a more promising direction. This approach has saved numerous products from the brink of obscurity, reinventing them for success.

Iconic Transformations

From Sticky Mess to Creative Tool: The Post-it Note

The invention of Post-it Notes is a prime example of a product failure turned success. Initially developed as a super-strong adhesive by Spencer Silver at 3M, the product found no practical application and was deemed a failure. However, the narrative changed when a colleague, Art Fry, realized its potential as a bookmark that could re-stick without damaging the pages. This epiphany led to one of the most versatile office products to date.

Reviving a Legend: The Apple iPod

Apple's introduction of the iPod in 2001 revolutionized the music industry and the company's fortunes. However, its journey was anything but smooth. Facing initial scepticism for its high price and Apple's exclusive ecosystem, the iPod's success was not immediate. It took Apple's strategic pricing adjustments, the evolution of iTunes, and opening up the ecosystem to Windows users to transform the iPod into a cultural icon and financial goldmine.

Lessons for Startups: Embrace Flexibility and Persistence

Startups can draw significant lessons from these stories of transformation. The key takeaway lies in the power of flexibility and persistence. A strongly held belief in the potential of your product, combined with a willingness to pivot and adapt, can shift the trajectory from failure to success.

OneTask, the AI-powered personal admin assistant, embodies this ethos. Initially tailored to prioritize tasks and integrate with Google services, its capabilities have expanded in response to user feedback. This adaptability ensures that OneTask remains at the forefront of productivity solutions, helping users to focus on what truly matters.

As highlighted in our previous discussions on 'Agile for Non-Software Projects,' the importance of agility and responsiveness in product development cannot be overstated. Adaptable methodologies are not just reserved for software; they're a crucial part of any product's lifecycle, especially when navigating the pivot from failure to success.


The journey from product failure to success is fraught with challenges, setbacks, and, most importantly, opportunities for growth. By embracing change, persisting through adversity, and always seeking innovative solutions, any product can achieve greatness. Let the stories of Post-it Notes and Apple iPod inspire your startup to embrace failure as a mere detour on the road to success.

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Available spring 2024.