UCL School of Management is delighted to welcome Jessica Santana, Stanford to host a seminar discussing “Embracing Failure: A Socio-Computational Analysis of Failure Narrative Strategies in Entrepreneurship”
From businesses to products, to campaigns and human lives, failure narratives attempt to make sense of the unexpected and re-position the fallen. Yet, failure narratives are paradoxical in that they expose the author to stigmatization. This study investigates how authors of public failure narratives navigate the tension between sensemaking and stigma by inductively analyzing narratives as cultural artifacts. We use a context where failure is prevalent – entrepreneurship – and take advantage of the recent phenomenon of online startup postmortems and the digital traces they leave. We find that peers are a vital, yet undertheorized, audience of failure narratives. Through text mining and correspondence analysis, we find that entrepreneurs use a variety of rhetorics to narrate failure to peers. We show how this rhetorical variety not only reflects subcultural divisions, but also how the rhetorical strategy relates to social and economic outcomes. These findings have important implications for the role of peers and language in entrepreneurship, stigma recovery, and the sociology of knowledge.