The Organizational Journey to Learning Based on Failure

Dennis Michael Sullivan & Josephine Cecilie Brandt

Student thesis: Master thesis


While organizational learning is at the forefront of all companies’ processes in order to succeed, a topic such as failure can either be praised as a miraculous learning experience, or dismissed as a bump in the road. However, what is the true knowledge that can be harnessed from observing your failures and which processes should be utilized to maximize your learning capabilities? The purpose of this research is to examine how organizations can improve their learning capabilities through failure. Our aim is to present a scientific understanding of the relationship between failure and organizational learning, allowing organizations to better understand this accord in order to grow their capabilities. Our exploration of the discussion of failure has revealed three key elements which provide momentous influence on learning from failure. This thesis will demonstrate that culture, experimentation and management are three important factors, which helps facilitate how organizations can learn through failure. These elements reflect one dimension of our research. The second dimension is constituted by organizational learning theories. Together they create the basis for our scientific analysis of the case companies, and hence an understanding of how organizations can learn from failure. Through theoretical discussions involving organizational learning theories it was concluded that organizational culture has a critical influence on a company’s capabilities to learn from failure. Furthermore by integrating processes which incorporate experimentation an organization is able to analyze and interpret what critical factors influence the company and will provide the strongest learnings to be dissected. However managerial influence is viewed to have a pervasive influence on changing the societal aversion many feel to failure, aligning the company culture to the organizations learning strategy is the culminating step in order to learn from failure.

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2014
Number of pages136