Whilst failure is clearly a painful and damaging experience that is not inherently desirable (Sitkin, 1992), extant theorising points to the substantial information, learning and knowledge contained within this experience (Shepherd, 2004). Cardon and McGrath (1999) state that many entrepreneurs credit learning from past failure as a crucial element of their experience base. There is an important ‘future-oriented’ element to learning from failure, in that this experience is seen as invaluable in understanding alternative and more effective ways of acting in the future (Zacharakis et al, 1999).

This paper applies three distinctive learning frameworks from adult/management learning literature. Mezirow’s (1991) concept of ‘transformative’ learning is utilised to appreciate the personal learning outcomes of failure. Argyris and Schön’s (1978) theory of ‘double-loop’ learning is used to highlight lessons learned regarding organizational practices. Finally, the concept of ‘generative’ learning (Cope, 2005) is applied to comprehend how failure can be useful for future entrepreneurial endeavours.