The young Indian batsmen thew their wickets away at crucial junctures as the visitors ended up losing the game by two runs in Harare on Saturday.
Dhoni hopes the fresh faces don't make the same mistakes in the second game here tomorrow (June 20).
"I feel, though we lost the game - it is disappointing - it is still a learning curve for the youngsters, provided they are learning out of it," said Dhoni.
"You have to take it in a serious manner because whenever you will represent the country, whenever they get a chance to be part of the proper Indian team for a consistent period of time, they will feel the pressure. That will be the time when a game like this or a tour like this will really help them ease out that pressure," he said further.
The captain himself failed to get his team over the line as India could not get eight runs off the final over with pacer Neville Madziva holding his nerve. He said he should have completed the job but expected a more sensible approach from his batsmen.
"I felt the last ball was brilliant but that is what my job is, so maybe I am the person to finish the job. But at the same time, we kept losing wickets and what happens at that stage is that you are losing wickets and you are giving one dot ball and at the same time, the set batsman is not getting strike.
"I felt the batsmen will have to take the responsibility. The reason being, few of them, they were set, they were batting well. When you are chasing targets, you need to take it to the end and then look to play the shots. That was something that was lacking in this game," Dhoni pointed out.
The second string squad for the tour was picked in the absence of seniors and Dhoni said the rookie players must make the most of the opportunity. The skipper said he batted at six to give others more time in the middle.
"It is not for me. If I had to bat up, I could easily bat at four for this team. But what is important is for these youngsters to bat at that number because this is an opportunity for them. The only reason I am here is to understand them and at the same time guide them as to what has to be done."
He also said international cricket is different to IPL and there is little room for error.
"Let's talk about IPL, it doesn't really matter. You can play your big shots. There is no pressure of result. You say 'okay, in 14 games if you play five or six innings, you will take the team through.' Over here it is slightly different.
This is where you have to personally tell them as to 'this could have been done at that point of time.' And also that's how you learn. It is not that you have to commit a mistake to learn."
The loss was a rude shock for the team that steamrolled Zimbabwe in the preceding three ODIs. Dhoni said the result proves every international team needs to be respected.
"It doesn't matter which team you are playing. It is a levelling experience. What I mean by that is you need to give a lot of respect to cricket and when you go in to bat or bowl in the field, irrespective of the opposition, you have to be at your best.
"You can't play with your reputation or playing eleven that looks good on paper. What is important is how well you play on the field, how well you are executing. It is the cricket that wins you the games, not the teams. I felt we were way off today, both in the bowling and the batting department," he added.