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Team Learning from Mistakes: The Contribution of Cooperative Goals and Problem‐Solving


  • Dean Tjosvold
  • Zi‐you Yu
  • Chun Hui


ABSTRACT Although mistakes may have considerable potential for learning, previous research has emphasized that organizational members are often defensive when their mistakes are pointed out and will even continue with their present course of action despite growing costs. Recent research has shown that team‐level variables, such as psychological safety and shared mental model, can help overcome barriers to learning from mistakes. Structural equation analyses on teams working in a sample of organizations in Shanghai, China, suggested that teams were able to learn from their mistakes to the extent that they took a problem solving orientation. This orientation in turn was based on developing cooperative but not competitive goals within the team. Although competitive and independent goals induce blaming, blaming itself was not significantly related to learning. Blaming, especially when conducted openly, may hold individual team members accountable as well as provoke defensiveness. Findings empirically link the theory of cooperation and competition with the organizational learning literature. Results suggest that cooperative goals and problem solving promote learning from mistakes.

Suggested Citation

  • Dean Tjosvold & Zi‐you Yu & Chun Hui, 2004. "Team Learning from Mistakes: The Contribution of Cooperative Goals and Problem‐Solving," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 41(7), pages 1223-1245, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:41:y:2004:i:7:p:1223-1245
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2004.00473.x

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    1. Danneels, Erwin & Vestal, Alex, 2020. "Normalizing vs. analyzing: Drawing the lessons from failure to enhance firm innovativeness," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 35(1).
    2. Ben Lupton & Richard Warren, 2018. "Managing Without Blame? Insights from the Philosophy of Blame," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 152(1), pages 41-52, September.
    3. Dean A. Shepherd & Holger Patzelt & Trenton A. Williams & Dennis Warnecke, 2014. "How Does Project Termination Impact Project Team Members? Rapid Termination, ‘Creeping Death’, and Learning from Failure," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(4), pages 513-546, June.
    4. Maija Vähämäki, 2005. "Democratic dialogue and collective learning in the context of self-managed teams," Enterprise and Work Innovation Studies, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, IET/CICS.NOVA-Interdisciplinary Centre on Social Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, vol. 1(1), pages 109-115, November.
    5. Qingyan Ye & Duanxu Wang & Xi Li, 2019. "Inclusive leadership and employees’ learning from errors: A moderated mediation model," Australian Journal of Management, Australian School of Business, vol. 44(3), pages 462-481, August.
    6. Arnoud Oude Groote Beverborg & Peter J. C. Sleegers & Maaike D. Endedijk & Klaas Van Veen, 2015. "Towards Sustaining Levels of Reflective Learning: How Do Transformational Leadership, Task Interdependence, and Self-Efficacy Shape Teacher Learning in Schools?," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(1), pages 1-33, March.
    7. Yueqiao Qiao & Zhe Zhang & Ming Jia, 2021. "Their Pain, Our Pleasure: How and When Peer Abusive Supervision Leads to Third Parties’ Schadenfreude and Work Engagement," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 169(4), pages 695-711, April.
    8. Tara N. Cohen & Andrew C. Griggs & Joseph R. Keebler & Elizabeth H. Lazzara & Shawn M. Doherty & Falisha F. Kanji & Bruce L. Gewertz, 2020. "Using Escape Rooms for Conducting Team Research: Understanding Development, Considerations, and Challenges," Simulation & Gaming, , vol. 51(4), pages 443-460, August.
    9. Kim, Kyoung Yong & Atwater, Leanne & Jolly, Phillip & Ugwuanyi, Ijeoma & Baik, Kibok & Yu, Jia, 2021. "Supportive leadership and job performance: Contributions of supportive climate, team-member exchange (TMX), and group-mean TMX," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 134(C), pages 661-674.
    10. Ambra Galeazzo & Andrea Furlan & Andrea Vinelli, 2017. "The organizational infrastructure of continuous improvement – an empirical analysis," Operations Management Research, Springer, vol. 10(1), pages 33-46, June.
    11. Wu, Long-Zeng & Ferris, D. Lance & Kwan, Ho Kwong & Chiang, Flora & Snape, Ed & Liang, Lindie H., 2015. "Breaking (or making) the silence: How goal interdependence and social skill predict being ostracized," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 51-66.
    12. Wing Shing Lee, 2020. "An Experimental Investigation Into the Application of a Learning-From-Mistakes Approach Among Freshmen Students," SAGE Open, , vol. 10(2), pages 21582440209, June.
    13. Gressgård, Leif Jarle & Hansen, Kåre, 2015. "Knowledge exchange and learning from failures in distributed environments: The role of contractor relationship management and work characteristics," Reliability Engineering and System Safety, Elsevier, vol. 133(C), pages 167-175.
    14. Hong T. M. Bui & Yehuda Baruch & Vinh S. Chau & Hong-Wei He, 2016. "Team learning: The missing construct from a cross-cultural examination of higher education," Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 29-51, March.
    15. Khalil Rhaiem & Nabil Amara, 2021. "Learning from innovation failures: a systematic review of the literature and research agenda," Review of Managerial Science, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 189-234, February.
    16. Ambra Galeazzo & Andrea Furlan & Andrea Vinelli, 0. "The organizational infrastructure of continuous improvement – an empirical analysis," Operations Management Research, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-14.

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