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10 Times Top Bosses Admitted Their Products Were Awful

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

In the world of business, it's uncommon but often impactful when bosses openly criticize their own products.

Admitting you got something completely and totally wrong can be endearing.

For example, Coca-Cola has a tongue-in-cheek testimony to its disastrous "New Coke" experiment on its website.

Here are some notable instances where bosses have publicly acknowledged their products' shortcomings.

In some cases, this has led to strategic overhauls and, in some cases, remarkable turnarounds.

Domino's Pizza - Patrick Doyle


In 2010, Patrick Doyle, the then-CEO of Domino's, admitted in a bold marketing campaign the company's pizza was terrible.

He said: "This is a company that had built the whole brand around fast and reliable delivery, and ... we realized that everyone in the world who wanted fast, convenient pizza was already buying from us, and the people who wanted a great pie simply were not."

This honest acknowledgment led to a major overhaul of their recipe and significant improvements in quality, resulting in increased sales and a revitalized brand image.

Tesla - Elon Musk

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, isn't shy of giving his view on things, particularly on X, which he now owns.

In 2018, he referred to Tesla’s Model 3 issues as “production hell.”

He publicly acknowledged the flaws and delays in the manufacturing process.

This honesty helped to maintain customer trust despite the setbacks.

Ford - Jim Hackett

In 2019, Ford’s CEO Jim Hackett openly criticized the company's Lincoln Continental's design.

He said it "didn’t fit the vision of what Lincoln could be."

This candid assessment led to a renewed focus on innovation and design improvements within the company.

Microsoft - Satya Nadella

Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s CEO, admitted in 2015 the company’s previous mobile strategy was flawed.

He conceded Microsoft bosses had missed the mobile phone trend, leading to the failure of Windows Phone.

Holding his hands up and saying the company had missed the boat, wasting a lot of time and money allowed it to focus its efforts on cloud computing and software.

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J.Crew - Mickey Drexler

In 2017, Mickey Drexler is another of the CEOs who admitted the company had made mistakes in its product designs.

The J.Crew boss said the clothes had become too trendy and expensive.

He said this alienated its core customer base.

This frankness led to a strategy shift to recapture the brand's essence.

Twitter - Jack Dorsey

Jack Dorsey, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, publicly acknowledged several times the platform has significant issues with user harassment, misinformation, and abuse.

His admissions were part of ongoing efforts to improve user safety and platform integrity.

His predecessor Musk has been criticised for allowing this to go backwards since his $44 billion takeover.

Johnson & Johnson - Alex Gorsky

In 2010, Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson & Johnson, acknowledged serious quality control issues within its over-the-counter drugs division, leading to massive recalls.

This transparency was critical in rebuilding consumer trust and implementing stricter quality controls.

Blackberry - Thorsten Heins

Thorsten Heins, Blackberry's CEO in 2013, admitted that the company was struggling to keep up with competitors like Apple and Samsung.

He acknowledged the brand’s technology and interface was outdated.

This led to efforts to bosses working to modernize its offerings, though ultimately, it wasn't enough to regain market dominance.

Uber - Dara Khosrowshahi

When Dara Khosrowshahi took over as CEO of Uber in 2017, he publicly criticized the company’s previous toxic culture and numerous scandals.

His admission was part of a broader effort to overhaul Uber’s corporate culture and improve its public image.

Nokia - Stephen Elop

Stephen Elop, then CEO of Nokia, famously referred to the company’s Symbian platform as a “burning platform” in 2011.

This stark metaphor highlighted the urgent need for change.

Ironically, it led to Nokia's partnership with Microsoft to adopt the Windows Phone platform, which also failed.

However, it probably seemed a better idea to bosses at the time.

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