Abstract

While there are multiple theories which seek to explain individual responses to failure, our theoretical model combines Mindset (Dweck, 1999), and Attribution (Kelley, 1967) theories. Dweck’s (1999) work on mindsets illustrated that those who believe that personal attributes (e.g. intelligence) can be improved tend to outperform those who believe that personal attributes cannot be improved (Dweck, 1999, 2007). Dweck refers to these two different beliefs as “fixed” and “growth” mindsets and has shown in several studies the implications these mindsets have on responses to failure. Growth mindsets have been shown to promote challenge-seeking and a mastery-oriented response to failure, whereas Fixed Mindsets have been shown to produce challenge-avoidance and a learned helplessness response to failure (Elliot & Dweck, 1988). While these two theories have been tested in psychological studies, they have yet to be applied to entrepreneurial responses to discrete project failures. Specifically, our study examines the role mindsets play in accounting for attributional responses to failure. Our model contributes to the entrepreneurial literature by comparing and contrasting these two related yet distinct explanations for failure response in order to determine the effects of each in the entrepreneurial setting.

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