Failing to Learn? The Effects of Failure and Success on Organizational Learning in the Global Orbital Launch Vehicle Industry

Peter M. Madsen and Vinit Desai
Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 53, Issue 3, June 2010, pp. 451 – 476

It is unclear whether the common finding of improved organizational performance with increasing organizational experience is driven by learning from success, learning from failure, or some combination of the two. We disaggregate these types of experience and address their relative (and interactive) effects on organizational performance in the orbital launch vehicle industry. We find that organizations learn more effectively from failures than successes, that knowledge from failure depreciates more slowly than knowledge from success, and that prior stocks of experience and the magnitude of failure influence how effectively organizations can learn from various forms of experience.