Failing is succeeding: UMN business school teams with new APM podcast

“Spectacular Failures” features a Carlson School of Management professor in each episode.

Illustrated by Abby Adamski.

Abby Adamski

Illustrated by Abby Adamski.

Farrah Mina

University of Minnesota strategic management professor Mary Benner headed to St. Paul a few months ago to talk to American Public Media about the shrinkage of the film company Kodak.

Benner was recording to be featured on an upcoming episode of “Spectacular Failures”—a new business podcast about corporate failures. The podcast, which launched on June 17, was created by APM in partnership with the University’s Carlson School of Management. In addition to being a sponsor for the project, faculty members from the business school are featured as subject matter expertise in every episode of the show. 

“People love to hear stories of how a business became a success,” said Andre Eggert, a spokesperson for the Carlson School. “As a business school, we know that you’re missing half the story if you don’t also hear about the failures.”

In an episode focusing on Kodak, Benner’s insight will be used to help tell the story of the company’s experiences with a technological shift from film photography to digital photography. Benner has done more than 20 years of research investigating the difficulties companies like Kodak face when responding to new technologies. 

Although many people assume Kodak could not keep up with technological advances, the company — which developed the first digital camera — was stunted by shareholders when it came to making the technological leap from film to digital, Benner said.

“Although internal reasons are the predominant focus when people point to innovation challenges in big companies, it misses the idea that there might be other constraints, from shareholders, etc. that prevent companies from changing effectively,” Benner said in an email.

Conversations about a potential partnership with the business school began in early 2018 when APM approached the school about the project, Eggert said. The school’s reputation is compatible with the show’s goal to make business education accessible and entertaining, said Lauren Dee, the interim director of podcasting at APM. 

For the Carlson School, the podcast is as an opportunity to underscore its available expertise. 

“The school saw the podcast as an interesting and emerging space for us to potentially highlight strengths of the school and our faculty and connect with listeners.” said Jamie Plesser, Carlson’s assistant dean for marketing and communications. 

Each episode ends with a short conversation with a Carlson faculty member about their research in the concluding featurette called Biz Whiz.

Although Carlson has had discussions about creating a podcast in the past, “Spectacular Failures” is the business school’s first podcast, Plesser said.

“Podcasting continues to grow in popularity, and it provides an immersive experience for audiences that intimately connect them with the storytelling, so it seemed like the perfect fit for this project,” Eggert said.