Comparing Different Approaches to Entrepreneurial Learning: A Field Experiment in Pakistan

Failure is widely acknowledged as a critical component of the organizational learning and innovation processs. Learning from failure, in particular, seems extremely relevant in the context of entrepreneurship, where failure often emerges as the predominant outcome. Remarkably, most entrepreneurship training programs predominantly emphasize success stories of entrepreneurs, without leveraging the learning potential that come from stories of failure. Consequently, we investigate how entrepreneurs assimilate lessons from the failure of others differently compared to the success of others and, subsequently, how these distinct learning approaches impact the decisions entrepreneurs make about their businesses.

To investigate this research question, we conduct a randomized controlled trial (RCT) aimed at providing robust empirical evidence and assessing the effects of adopting a "learning from failure" approach vis-à-vis the conventional "learning from success" approach. In this study, about 300 entrepreneurs participate to a training program focused on market validation with the same structure: we utilize robust frameworks and tools commonly employed in entrepreneurial education, we provide practical examples from other founders, we facilitate discussions on essential thematic elements, and provide opportunities for participants to reflect on the content. However, frameworks, examples, discussions, and self-reflections focus on learning from the failure of others for one group (half of the participants), and on learning from the success of others for the other group (half of the participants). Our expectation is that both types of training will benefit entrepreneurs but in different ways. We will measure outcomes related to both entrepreneurial intentions, actions, and decision-making processes to gain deeper insights into how distinct learning methodologies influence the development of new businesses.