Being open about failure as an entrepreneur is an increasingly common practice in and beyond startup communities, for example by proactively and strategically crafting public statements to frame subsequent failure conversations. Combining an impression management perspective with an analysis of communicative genres of failure narratives, we empirically investigate postmortem statements of failed entrepreneurs. Shifting the discourse from the (content of the) failure narratives towards considering its broader communicative context, we show how genres emerge from patterns of failure narratives and impression management strategies. Our analysis suggests that subgenres of postmortem statements represent different forms of openness about failure, and some subgenres in particular contribute to establishing an ‘organizational afterlife’ as a potentially long-lasting impression management strategy.
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In the wake of new digital technologies, organizations rely increasingly on contributions by external actors to innovate or even to fulfill their core tasks, including strategy-making processes. These external actors may take the form of crowds, where actors are isolated and dispersed, or of communities, where these actors are related and self-identify as members of their communities. While we know that including new actors in strategy-making may lead to tensions, we know little about how these tensions differ when either crowds or communities are concerned. Investigating this question by analyzing open strategy-making initiatives conducted by two non-profit organizations (Creative Commons and Wikimedia), we find that tensions with communities may be resolved with increasing openness in strategy-making, while crowds are better compatible with more exclusive strategy-making practices.
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