"Bouncing Back" from a Loss: Entrepreneurial Orientation, Emotions, and Failure Narratives

By Wolfe, Marcus T.; Shepherd, Dean A. | Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, May 2015 | Go to article overview

"Bouncing Back" from a Loss: Entrepreneurial Orientation, Emotions, and Failure Narratives


Wolfe, Marcus T., Shepherd, Dean A., Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice


In this study, we explore how failure in the form of the first lost game of the college football season for a team influences specific content within the narratives constructed regarding that loss and how those narratives are associated with subsequent performance. Building on theoretical perspectives regarding sports management, entrepreneurial orientation (EO), emotions, and the use of narratives for sensemaking, we develop and test an EO-related sports management model of failure narratives. Using computer-aided text analysis of transcripts from head coaches' press conferences directly following their team's first loss of the season as well as regression analysis, we found that the narrative s EO content has a U-shaped relationship with subsequent (i.e., next game) performance. Additionally, negative emotional content had a similar U-shaped relationship with subsequent performance. Finally, positive emotional content exhibited an inverse U-shaped relationship with subsequent performance. We discuss the implications of these results on the literatures regarding EO, emotions, and sports management as well as possible avenues for future research.

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Entrepreneurial activity in the form of opportunity recognition, development, and exploitation can occur for a number of different reasons (e.g., social entrepreneurship [Austin, Stevenson, & Wei-Skillern, 2006], environmental entrepreneurship [Dean & McMullen, 2007], etc.) and can take place in a variety of diverse industries. Indeed, recent research has made the case for the importance of sport-based entrepreneurship as a stream of research (Ratten, 2010, 2011). In this perspective, "entrepreneurship is an integral part of sports management and creates a competitive advantage for people involved in sports (Ratten, 2011, p. 58). Several parallels between sporting events and entrepreneurial initiatives can be made, including that both involve significant levels of uncertainty that often result in project failure--a project outcome that falls short of its intended goal (Hoang & Rothaermel, 2005; McGrath, 1999). Project failures allow organizations, including sports teams, to develop a better understanding of their overall position within the competitive environment and to take actions to improve that position (Popper Lipshitz, 2000). However, developing understanding is predicated on the notion that

organizations are able to make sense of failure experiences and take the appropriate steps necessary to reduce the likelihood that they will make the same mistakes again. Moreover, while failures and negative short-term outcomes can result in a reduction in entrepreneurial initiatives (March, 1991), for organizations that operate in high-velocity, dynamic environments, such as prominent sports leagues, maintaining entrepreneurial activities can be a critical factor in determining long-term success (Ratten, 2011). Making sense of one's failure experiences and maintaining an entrepreneurial orientation (EO) represents an important challenge for organizations, a challenge that can be managed through the use of narratives.

Narratives can give meaning to events, not only communicating past processes but also shaping future behaviors (Orr, 1995). In addition, they have been shown to be critical for a variety of purposes throughout the entrepreneurial process (Fletcher, 2007; Martens, Jennings, & Jennings, 2007)--none perhaps more important than the role they play in the sensemaking process (Brown, Stacey, & Nandhakumar, 2008). However, while considerable research points to the importance of narratives in sensemaking (Weick, 1995; Weick, Sutcliffe, & Obstfeld, 2005), a relative paucity of research remains on precisely how narrative elements differ in providing an understanding of past events as well as providing justification for future activities. We attempt to address this issue by building on past research on failure, EO, and emotions to theorize about how specific narrative elements are communicated after failure and how narratives are associated with subsequent performance (i. …

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