Innovation by Learning from Mistakes: The Relationships Between Team Characteristics, Error Orientation and Team Innovation

  • Marianne van Woerkom
Part of the Professional and Practice-based Learning book series (PPBL, volume 6)


Although workplace errors may have serious consequences for individuals and organisations, they also make it possible to learn (Keith and Frese, Journal of Applied Psychology 90(4):677–691, 2005), correct false assumptions, and stimulate exploration and new discoveries. In a social context like work teams, the team’s approach to mistakes is of particular importance. Tjosvold and Hui (2004) differentiate between a blaming and a problem-solving approach that teams may have in relation to mistakes. If team members are afraid of making mistakes, feel embarrassed after making a mistake, or are even punished for their mistakes, they are likely to hide their mistakes, thereby blocking the opportunity for the team to learn from them. On the other hand, openly discussing and analysing mistakes amongst team members can foster team learning. Tjosvold and Hui have shown that a problem-solving approach enhances team learning, while a blaming approach impedes team learning. In the end, teams that have a problem-solving orientation are also likely to be more innovative because a constructive approach to errors can lead to improvements in the team’s way of working. As plausible as this relationship is, there is hardly any empirical evidence to support it. Moreover, the extent to which team characteristics such as team boundedness and team member stability, task interdependence, and team autonomy influence the presence of a problem-solving versus a blaming approach is still unknown. This chapter focuses on the relationship between team characteristics, a team’s error orientation (problem-solving or blaming) and team innovation, based on a sample of 624 respondents, working in 88 teams in seven different organisations.


Team Member Team Performance Error Orientation Team Learning Team Characteristic 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht  2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Learning and DevelopmentTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

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