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Train wreck at Montparnasse 1895

Train wreck at Montparnasse, France, 1895

Failure (colloquially fail, phail or flop) in general refers to the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective. It may be viewed as the opposite of success.

Criteria for failure Edit

The criteria for failure are relative to a particular observer and may be based on the individual's belief system. A situation considered to be a failure by one might be considered a success by another, particularly in cases of direct competition or a zero-sum game. As well, the degree of success or failure in a situation may be differently viewed by distinct observers or participants, such that a situation that one considers to be a failure, another might consider to be a success, a qualified success or a neutral situation. Failure requires a subjective interpretation, therefore an inanimate object may not be said to have failed. An exception to this case would be an indirect failure, such as a failure of a machine built by a subjective being, but not failure as a direct result of the subjective action of programming it. Rather the failure would be a result of a combinatoric failure of both events in time and the subjective interpretation of the outcome of his goal.

It may also be difficult or impossible to ascertain whether a situation meets criteria for failure or success due to ambiguous or ill-defined definition of those criteria. Finding useful and effective criteria, or heuristics, to judge the success or failure of a situation may itself be a significant task.

Types of failure Edit

Failure can be differentially perceived from the viewpoints of the evaluators. A person who is only interested in the final outcome of an activity would consider it to be an Outcome Failure if the core issue has not been resolved or a core need is not met. A failure can also be a process failure whereby although the activity is completed successfully, a person may still feel dissatisfied if the underlying process is perceived to be below expected standard or benchmark.

  1. Failure to anticipate
  2. Failure to perceive
  3. Failure to carry out a task

Commercial failures Edit

A commercial failure is a product that does not reach expectations of success, failing to come even close. A major flop goes one step further and is recognized for its complete lack of success.

Most of the items listed below had high expectations, significant financial investments, and/or widespread publicity, but fell far short of success. Due to the subjective nature of "success" and "meeting expectations", there can be disagreement about what constitutes a "major flop."


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