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University of Colorado Denver Business School study shows failure better teacher than success
Date:8/23/2010

DENVER (August 23, 2010) While success is surely sweeter than failure, it seems failure is a far better teacher, and organizations that fail spectacularly often flourish more in the long run, according to a new study by Vinit Desai, assistant professor of management at the University of Colorado Denver Business School.

Desai's research, published in the Academy of Management Journal, focused on companies and organizations that launch satellites, rockets and shuttles into space an arena where failures are high profile and hard to conceal.

Working with Peter Madsen, assistant professor at BYU School of Management, Desai found that organizations not only learned more from failure than success, they retained that knowledge longer.

"We found that the knowledge gained from success was often fleeting while knowledge from failure stuck around for years," he said. "But there is a tendency in organizations to ignore failure or try not to focus on it. Managers may fire people or turn over the entire workforce while they should be treating the failure as a learning opportunity."

The researchers said they discovered little "significant organizational learning from success" but added "we do not discount the possibility that it may occur in other settings."

Desai compared the flights of the space shuttle Atlantis and the Challenger. During the 2002 Atlantis flight, a piece of insulation broke off and damaged the left solid rocket booster but did not impede the mission or the program. There was little follow-up or investigation.

The Challenger was launched next and another piece of insulation broke off. This time the shuttle and its seven-person crew were destroyed.

The disaster prompted the suspension of shuttle flights and led to a major investigation resulting in 29 recommended changes to prevent future calamities.

The difference in response in the two cases, Desai said, came down to thi
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Contact: David Kelly
303-503-7990
University of Colorado Denver
Source:Eurekalert

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