Different Strokes for Different Folks: Entrepreneurial Narratives of Emotion, Cognition, and Making Sense of Business Failure


  • Orla Byrne,

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Orla Byrne is Prize Fellow in Entrepreneurship in the School of Management at the University of Bath, Claverton Down, Bath BA2 7AY, UK.
  • Dean A. Shepherd

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Dean A. Shepherd is Randall L. Tobias Chair in Entrepreneurial Leadership and Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.

  • We would like to thank the late Dr. Jason Cope for his enthusiasm, encouragement, and advice in the early stages of this research project. We also thank Friederike Welter and two anonymous reviewers for their invaluable feedback and the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and Strathclyde Business School for financial support.


This multiple case study of eight entrepreneurial narratives of failed businesses examines how narratives that express different emotional states (folks) reflect different efforts to make sense of failure experiences (strokes). Our comparisons of the narratives' emotional content (describing emotional states at the time of business failure and presently) revealed some new insights. First, high negative emotions motivate making sense of a loss, while high positive emotions provide cognitive resources to facilitate and motivate making sense of the failure event. Second, emotion-focused coping helped deal with negative emotions. Finally, sensemaking was also facilitated by cognitive strategies that focused attention on the failure event and promoted self-reflection.