Regenerative failure and attribution

Grace Walsh, James Cunningham

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)
    16 Downloads (Pure)


    Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to focus on the processes that occur between entrepreneurs’ primary attribution for failure and the emergent learning dimensions from failure, in the context of regenerative failures. Design/methodology/approach - The study focusses on 21 entrepreneurs operating in the producing services sector, a major subsector of the Irish Information and Communication Technology industry. All the entrepreneurs experienced business failure and subsequently re-entered the entrepreneurial sphere at a later date. A qualitative approach examines their attributions for failure, responses to failure, and learning dimensions from failure. Findings - Regenerative entrepreneurs’ primary attributions for business failure are examined in detail; four types of failure attributions are uncovered – internal individual level; external firm level; external market level; and hybrid attributions. Entrepreneurs’ attributions impact their responses to the failure; this in turn affects entrepreneurial learning. When failure is primarily attributed to internal factors, the entrepreneur’s response is affective, leading to deep, personal learning about oneself. External attributions (both firm level and market level) result in a primarily behavioural response, with learning focussed on the venture, and networks and relationships. Those primarily attributing failure to hybrid factors have a largely cognitive response and they learn about venture management. Research limitations/implications - This study is a retrospective analysis of business failure. Originality/value - The study contributes to the growing literature on entrepreneurs’ attributions for business failure by focussing on regenerative failure; it links attributions to – responses to, and learning from, failure. The key contribution to knowledge emerges from the development of a model of the underlying processes affecting learning from failure for regenerative entrepreneurs. The research also establishes and identifies clear links between attributions, responses, and lessons learned in the context of regenerative failure.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)688-707
    JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2017


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