A Learning Perspective on Business Failure: A Qualitative Study of Austrian Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurial failure is an emerging field of research. Dynamic models, which cover the entire process of failure, remain rare. The study aims to get a better understanding of the process of business failure, while analysing the phenomenon through a learning lens. We use a dynamic perspective on entrepreneurial learning proposed by Jason Cope, which puts emphasis on the processual nature of learning and addresses learning in the context of critical life experiences. Semi-structured interviews with 18 entrepreneurs from knowledge-intensive sectors in Austria, who experienced business failure, constitute the basis for qualitative content analysis. Business failure revealed itself to be a unique opportunity to learn for these entrepreneurs. They particularly learned in the fields of management of product development, hedging of start-up capital and strategic management. Further, they emphasized important learnings in the area of personal development. Five entrepreneurs from our sample launched a new business again and reported about achieving growth in terms of company size. With the study, we hope to contribute to the entrepreneurship research on failure by providing a comprehensive picture of experiencing and learning from failure through investigating this phenomenon from the pre-failure stage until re-engagement, especially in the context of high-potential entrepreneurs.
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