SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

This paper contributes to a growing body of research on shared cognition by examining shared beliefs about failure in organizational work groups. We argue that the popular ideal of organizational learning from failure is likely to be impeded by powerful psychological and organizational barriers to engaging in behaviors through which this can occur. We hypothesize that people hold tacit beliefs about appropriate responses to mistakes, problems and conflict, and that these are shared within and vary between organizational work groups (H1). These shared beliefs vary in the extent to which they take a learning approach to failure – specifically in the extent to which they endorse identifying, discussing, and analysing mistakes, problems, and conflicts. We also hypothesize that effective coaching, clear direction and a supportive work context influence beliefs related to failure (H2), and that beliefs about failure influence group performance (H3). These hypotheses combine to suggest a theoretical model of antecedents and consequences of shared beliefs about failure in work groups. The paper presents empirical evidence from a recent field study to test the model and finds support for Hypotheses 1, 2, and 3. Hypothesis 4 – that shared beliefs about failure mediate between the antecedents and the outcome of group performance – was not supported. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.