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Rauter, Susanne; Weiss, Matthias; Högl, Martin (2018): Team learning from setbacks: A study in the context of start-up teams. In: Journal of Organizational Behavior, Vol. 39, No. 6: pp. 783-795
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Although setbacks often happen as a collective experience, teams are an underresearched organizational unit when it comes to learning from setbacks. Despite the popular view that experiencing setbacks may facilitate learning, there are conflicting theoretical assumptions about the influence of setbacks on learning. Whereas one theoretical perspective in this topic area is in line with the proverbial learning from failure, a competing perspective argues that setbacks impede learning processes. This study aims to reconcile these conflicting assumptions by proposing team reflexivity as a moderator between team-experienced setbacks and team learning. Building on social cognitive theory, we develop a model of learning from experienced setbacks at the team level. We test our hypotheses on a sample of 57 start-up teams. Our results show that the effects of team-experienced setbacks differ depending on whether the focus is on affective reactions to or cognitive perceptions of the setback experience. Although the cognitive perception of setbacks generally shows a detrimental effect on team learning, the pattern of results for an affective reaction to setbacks is more complex: The relationship between negative affective reactions to setbacks and team learning is negative for teams with low reflexivity and positive for teams with high reflexivity.