We all have had those “What were they thinking?” moments. Whether it was New Coke, or Michael Jordan leaving basketball for baseball, or the creation of the XFL — some decisions just boggle the mind. Authors Daniel B. Kline and Jason Tomaszewski have collected 42 all-time great mistakes in their new book Worst Ideas Ever: A Celebration of Embarrassment. Written in a breezy style and including representative photos of each debacle, this is one of the most genuinely funny books you are likely to find.
One big reason is that outside of a couple of instances, e.g., The Hindenburg disaster, nobody gets hurt in these anecdotes. Well, just about everybody involved takes a battering in the pride department, but they had that coming. Leading the hit parade is possibly the biggest corporate embarrassment ever, the introduction of New Coke in 1985. The ludicrous idea was to replace Coca-Cola with a “new and improved” formula.
Immediately upon introduction, the response to New Coke was a deafening public outcry, and after a brief period (79 days) “Coca-Cola Classic” was brought back. New Coke hung on for a couple of years, but was eventually scrapped, presumably along with the executives who had approved it in the first place.
The book is broken up into five categories of study: “Food & Drink,” “Stuff,” “The Arts,” “Sports,” and “Media & Politics.” Under “Stuff” we find items such as “The In-Car Phonograph.” I never really knew the story behind this doozy, but Kline and Tomaszewski lay it all out, and the whole thing is just ridiculous.
In 1956, Chrysler actually offered this as an accessory on their De Soto, Dodge, and Plymouth models. Ignoring for the moment the obvious difficulties of playing a record in a moving vehicle, there was another problem. The contraption only played 45 rpm singles. That means that every three minutes or so you would have to change the record!
Every one of these entries is hilarious, in a hard-to-believe kind of way. When you think back on the Conan/Leno Tonight Show fiasco perpetrated by NBC, or when AOL swallowed Time/Warner in 2000, it boggles the mind to realize that nobody batted an eye at the time. I’m sure there are plenty more examples of monumentally stupid decisions that have been made over the years. For now though, Worst Ideas Ever, the book and the up-to-the-minute blog, collects some of the funniest, and most clueless examples of bad decision making of all time.