Understanding and Learning from Failure

Henrietta Baker, Simon D. Smith, Milena Velikova, Gordon Masterton, Bill Hewlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Failure is an intrinsic part of systems, including construction. While there is a less than consistent understanding of what failure is, it is an aspect of human nature that we wish to learn from mistakes. To gain insights into how failure is understood and what failure means in construction, and as a precursor to developing learning materials for higher education students, the outcomes of 19 semi-structured interviews with construction personnel in the UK are presented. The interviews explore processes employed by the construction industry to capture, understand and extract learning from these events, including an exploration of any perceived attitudes towards failure, and whether such attitudes are barriers or aids to effective learning in practice. Findings revealed different types of failure within the construction industry, manifested as separate and individually developed learning cycles, while attitudes towards failure impact the learning process. Two pairs of attitude stimuli were revealed: Ownership and Blame; Acceptance and Leadership. These findings are then used to provide learning tools for undergraduate students in built environment degree programmes. A taxonomy of failure was developed, incorporating three levels of causes, symptoms and consequences. A face validity exercise with industry experts provides the confidence to adopt this taxonomic approach.
Original languageEnglish
JournalManagement, Procurement and Law
Early online date14 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Education and training
  • UN SDG 9
  • Taxonomy
  • Interview


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