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Why Entrepreneurs Don’t Learn From Their Mistakes

‘Fail fast,” see what didn’t work and try again is the conventional wisdom. But research shows failed founders aren’t any better the next time.

By Francis Greene Updated Dec. 1, 2019 10:08 pm ET

Part of the folklore about successful entrepreneurs is that they succeeded because they first failed. “Fail fast,” entrepreneurs are often told, and you’ll learn valuable lessons that will help you in your next venture.

But this is a myth. While second-chance stories are comforting, my research shows that entrepreneurs don’t learn from their mistakes. In fact, it’s the opposite: Fail once and you’re most likely to fail again. Believing in the myth only sets entrepreneurs up for more failure—and leads to disappointment and frustration.

Prof. Greene is chair in entrepreneurship and the head of the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group at Edinburgh University Business School. Email

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