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Love your mistakes!—they help you adapt to change. How do knowledge, collaboration and learning cultures foster organizational intelligence?

Wioleta Kucharska (Faculty of Management and Economics, Department of Management, Gdansk University of Technology, Gdansk, Poland)
Denise A.D. Bedford (Communication Culture and Technology Program, Georgetown University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)

Journal of Organizational Change Management

ISSN: 0953-4814

Article publication date: 30 July 2020

Issue publication date: 7 December 2020




The study aims to determine how the acceptance of mistakes is related to adaptability to change in a broad organizational context. Therefore, it explores how knowledge, collaboration and learning cultures (including “acceptance of mistakes”) might help organizations overcome their resistance to change.


The study used two sample groups: students aged 18–24 years (330 cases) and employees aged >24 years (326 cases), who worked in knowledge-driven organizations. Structural equation models were developed, assessed and compared.


The effect of the “learning climate” on “adaptability to change” mediated by “acceptance of mistakes” has been detected for young students aged 18–24 years; however, this relationship is not significant for business employees aged >24 years. This result indicates that organizations, unlike universities, do not use mistakes as a tool to support learning that is to lead to change.

Research limitations/implications

Both samples used in the study were obtained from Poland. The business sample was in the majority represented by small and medium-sized enterprises. Therefore, the presented findings may only be applicable to Poland.

Practical implications

Acceptance of mistakes is vital for developing a learning culture. Mistakes help employees adapt to change. Hence, a learning culture that excludes the acceptance of mistakes is somehow artificial and may be unproductive. Paradoxically, the findings reveal that the fact that employees’ intelligence (adaptability to change) improves via mistakes does not mean that organizational intelligence will also increase. Thus, organizations that do not develop mechanisms of learning from mistakes lose the learning potential of their employees.


This study proposes a constant learning culture scale that includes the “acceptance of mistakes” and “learning climate” dimensions. Further, it empirically proves the value of mistakes for adaptability to change. Moreover, it also contributes to the existing literature by demonstrating the mechanism of the relationship between knowledge, collaboration and learning cultures in the context of adaptability to change. This study breaks with the convention of “exaggerated excellence” and promotes the acceptance of mistakes in organizations to develop organizational intelligence.



Kucharska, W. and Bedford, D.A.D. (2020), "Love your mistakes!—they help you adapt to change. How do knowledge, collaboration and learning cultures foster organizational intelligence?", Journal of Organizational Change Management, Vol. 33 No. 7, pp. 1329-1354.



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