'My Bad!' How Internal Attribution and Ambiguity of Responsibility Affect Learning from Failure. Myers, C. G.; Staats, B. R.; and Gino, F. Harvard Business School Working Paper Series, 2015.
'My Bad!' How Internal Attribution and Ambiguity of Responsibility Affect Learning from Failure [link]Paper  doi  abstract   bibtex   
Learning in organizations is a key determinant of individual and organizational success, and one valuable source of this learning is prior failure. Previous research finds that although individuals can learn from failed experiences, they do not always do so. To explain why this is true, we explore how individuals process failed experiences as a potential source of learning. Drawing on attribution theory, we conceptualize the differential impact that internal (self-focused) and external (factors outside of one\textquoterights control) attributions after failure may have on individuals\textquoteright learning and identify a key factor that shapes whether individuals attribute failure internally or externally, namely perceived ambiguity of responsibility. We hypothesize that when perceived ambiguity of responsibility is low rather than high, individuals will be more likely to attribute their failure internally and in turn devote more effort to learning and improving. We test our hypotheses using data collected in field and laboratory settings. This multi-method approach supports our theoretical model and permits us to gain further insight into how learning from failure occurs for individuals in work organizations.
@article{ Myers:2014uq,
  author = {Christopher G. {Myers} and Bradley R. {Staats} and Francesca {Gino}},
  title = {'My Bad!' How Internal Attribution and Ambiguity of Responsibility Affect Learning from Failure},
  year = {2015},
  pages = {1--53},
  journal = {Harvard Business School Working Paper Series},
  doi = {10.2139/ssrn.2426674},
  type = {Select Working Manuscripts},
  abstract = {Learning in organizations is a key determinant of individual and organizational success, and one valuable source of this learning is prior failure. Previous research finds that although individuals can learn from failed experiences, they do not always do so. To explain why this is true, we explore how individuals process failed experiences as a potential source of learning. Drawing on attribution theory, we conceptualize the differential impact that internal (self-focused) and external (factors outside of one{\textquoteright}s control) attributions after failure may have on individuals{\textquoteright} learning and identify a key factor that shapes whether individuals attribute failure internally or externally, namely perceived ambiguity of responsibility. We hypothesize that when perceived ambiguity of responsibility is low rather than high, individuals will be more likely to attribute their failure internally and in turn devote more effort to learning and improving. We test our hypotheses using data collected in field and laboratory settings. This multi-method approach supports our theoretical model and permits us to gain further insight into how learning from failure occurs for individuals in work organizations.},
  url = {http://ssrn.com/abstract=2426674}
}
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