Innovation Articles

By Daniel Gross

A Case of Successful Failure


You know the company, in part because its name is synonymous with high-profile failure. Eager to ride the wave of a hot new technology, it participated in a controversial government-funding program, staged a flashy initial public offering, and plowed hundreds of millions of dollars into research and new factories that would create jobs, reinvent an ailing domestic industry, and help the environment. Then there’s this other company you may have heard about. Having spent nearly 15 years patiently developing an important new technology, it suddenly finds itself in the sweet spot of a megatrend. Here’s the thing. Both scenarios describe the same firm: A123 Systems. And therein lies a cautionary tale about how we judge success and failure.