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Failing successfully - Failure attitudes in the international context

Started as a bilateral research idea, the ‘Management of Failure’ project has now grown to six partners, generated publications and is bound to grow further to prepare ourselves to succeed in a VUCA future. It lays foundation for the development of a reference model for failure management in an increasingly ‘fuzzy’ surrounding, which may be particularly valid for enterprises where failure is most common, including start-ups and knowledge-intensive industries.

Businesses are continuously optimising themselves, always avoiding failure as weakness and a waste of resources – Really? In a world becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) failure will have to be regarded as normal phenomenon. The assumption is, that companies need to be quick and creative in learning and entrepreneurial in order to survive. The project focused failure attitudes of companies in different industries, size and culture asking organisation members for their experience.

Based on failure-related accounts from Brazilian, Estonian, Finnish, German, Polish and Scottish companies our analysis has shown, that in the vast majority of business organisations, making mistakes was accepted as a part of the development and learning processes, and given such conditions as not repeating the same mistakes and avoiding costly ones, the share of companies enabling mistakes reached nearly 90%. By applying the cluster analysis and text mining, four different attitudes to business mistakes made in companies were identified. They matched the presumed ‘failure penalising’, ‘failure analysing’ and ‘failure enabling’ strategies but also added the fourth approach labelled as ‘failure conditionally enabling’. We observed that participative management and creativity encouragement were essential factors influencing failure management policies, and national culture was also partially relevant.

Project Coordinator

Failure Talks: Multidimensional Scaling Map of Failure Related Notions