Purpose: Failure plays a pivotal role in entrepreneurial learning. Knowledge of the learning process that enables an entrepreneur to re-emerge stronger after a failure, though considerable, is fragmented. This paper systematically collects relevant literature, assigns it to the stages of the experiential learning process (concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, active experimentation; Kolb, 1984), evaluates the research coverage of each stage and identifies promising avenues for future research.
Design/methodology/approach: This systematic literature review follows the guidelines articulated by Short (2009) and Tranfield et al. (2003), using Web of Science and EBSCO as primary data sources. Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning theory provides a basis for organizing the identified material into a framework of entrepreneurial learning from failure.
Findings: The literature provides insights on all stages of the process of entrepreneurial learning from failure. Particularly well elaborated are the nature of failure and its triggering effect for reflection, the factors influencing reflection, the contents of the resulting learning and their application in entrepreneurial re-emergence. Other topics remain under-researched, including alternative modes of recovery, the impact of personal attributes upon reflection, the cognitive processes underlying reflection, the transformation of failure-based observations into logically sound concepts and the application of this learning in non-entrepreneurial contexts.
Originality/value: This review provides the most complete overview of research into the process of entrepreneurial learning from failure. The systematic, theory-based mapping of this literature takes stock of current knowledge and proposes areas for future research.