“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison

But while success and failure depend on conditions, the mind neither waxes nor wanes.
― Bodhidharma

“If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.”
― Steven Wright

When one encounters a digital signage screen that is black (or blue) or otherwise displaying something other than a perfect rendition of world class content, the typical reaction is to label it a failure. Or, in Twitspeak, a #digitalsignage #FAIL. In our electronic culture of instant dissemination of all news, both good and bad, the world is made aware of mistakes and misdeeds with remarkable speed. And in the world of digital signage, failure conditions in the field are almost always assigned to the technology provider behind the network. While that is sometimes deserved, it is often just the easy assumption to make. The reality is that far more often than not, what appears to be a technical failure is caused by some combination of bad operational execution and environmental issues. In the end, problems generally end up in the laps of technical support staff regardless of cause, as they are perhaps the most qualified to troubleshoot all manners of issues. And they have a habit of answering their phones. It seems that those who exult in the glory of deals closed and networks powered must often bear the pain of fixing not just their own problems, but those of others. That is not a bad thing, as each instance is what educators would call a teachable event. Each failure is an opportunity to improve.

All that said, the #FAIL pictures are really a red herring, because the causes of the failures are almost always easily fixed. The truth is that there may be a number of networks that are actually in the process of failing, and we ought to be prepared as an industry to deal with the fallout of that. These failures are less easily fixed, as they are often caused by bad planning, undercapitalization, poor decision making or lack of commitment from key parties. Slow ad sales will often be named as a culprit, but that can usually be traced back to one of the other symptoms. It is not prudent to speculate or name names here, but those who have their ears to the ground certainly know that theres are folks out there skating on thin ice. Failures, even major ones, are likely to happen, but it can not and will not be the death knell of an industry. Instead, the failures will sharpen the resolve and execution of existing and new networks. They will provide cases studies for investors and operators alike to learn from. They will thin the herd of hacks, wannabes and opportunists, while elevating the prospects of professionals, visionaries and committed teams. Perhaps most importantly, they will create openings for the next generation of operators to fill. That is not a terrible thing to consider.

As an industry, we often bemoan the fact that we are not universally understood and accepted, yet we seem to be quick to point out digital signage failures. That practice is unlikely to stop, and will become more rampant as actual companies and not just screens fail. While it makes great reading and terrific fodder for blog posts, it tends to create a perception that failure is rampant or inevitable, when in fact it is not. Failures, even spectacular ones, are a natural (and ultimately necessary) part of overall growth. It is appropriate to analyze failures of all types, but not productive to revel in them. Bodhidharma and Edison had it right. Failure is conditional, and learning should be a constant. Both are on the path to #digitalsignage #SUCCESS.