by Soo Eng-Sing
Literatures on Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset have been gaining quite a lot of attention among business leaders and HR practitioners ever since Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, wrote about it ten years ago.
I was going to use words to quickly describe what is a Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset but I found the following excellent graphic by Nigel Holmes that I think this picture can be better than my thousand (probably hundred) words.
In essence, people with a Growth Mindset have several positive traits such as they are more open to learning, taking in feedback, taking risks and experimenting new things. David Rock and his team at the Neuroleadership Institute has studied further on this subject at the organizational level also found that people with a Growth Mindset do better with interruptions (change). They perform better after receiving negative feedback as opposed to most Fixed Mindset people will settle into disappointment.
So, we can see the benefits of such Growth Mindset on both the individual and organizational level could be significant. If your organization is going through a change, you want people who can bring in innovation, resilience and agility to create meanings in the change process. You need people with a Growth Mindset. If your organization is expanding, you want people who embrace challenges and are willing to learn from feedback to quickly adapt to the market to bring the business to the next level. You want people with a Growth Mindset. And even if your organization has reached a stagnation, your answer now, after reading all the benefits of having a Growth Mindset, will probably be you want people with that mindset to turn the company around.
What does it take to introduce and embed such a Growth Mindset culture in an organization then? Let’s admit it. A push for a mindset change is challenging but history has proven again and again as in any change management process, if people see the benefits and the change process is well managed, it can be done. I would like to suggest a few practical leadership actions I think an organization or groups of managers can adopt to introduce Growth Mindset at the organizational level.
1. Educate and introduce the concept and sell the benefits of having a Growth Mindset.
2. Role model some of the Growth Mindset behaviors such as willingness to take in criticism, take risks, share own learning and mistakes and be open to new ideas.
3. Encourage a culture of experimenting, taking reasonable amount of risk, and learning and reflecting from the experiments.
4. Identify behaviors that exemplify a Fixed Mindset and provide timely coaching and mentoring to the person(s). We know bad is stronger than good. Any negative mindset or behaviors may be more contagious than the positive ones.
5. Celebrate Growth Mindset behaviors. Talk about how the organization appreciate such behaviors or even reward people who display them.
6. Stretch the team with meaningful assignments, yet, provide a learning context to all the assignments so that people understand while they are being challenged, they are learning something.
7. Be opportunistic about issues, crises and conflicts. As and when they happen, turn them into learning opportunities as opposed to setbacks.
Most of us are naturally drawn to leaders who are inspiring. Having a Growth Mindset actually changes the outlook of a leader as well. As with any change journey it may take some time to see an organizational wide impact. When the leaders start with the above actions, they will witness improvements in team morale, productivity, and business results. They will already be a positive and inspiring force to their team before seeing a shift at the organizational level. And, that is, worth considering.