Growth Mindset research offers a resource to help individuals and teams achieve greater success. How we face challenges, mistakes, criticism, and the success of others indicates our own capacity to rise above obstacles courageously. This important work of this psychology research has caught on in education as well as the business world. Its application helps all of us thrive as we seek to live to our fullest potential. But popularity has a price. When we don’t know how to put these ideas into action, we miss their benefits.
A brief summary of the research
Dr. Carol Dweck, Stanford University psychologist, first introduced Growth and Fixed Mindset research to the world in 2006. Her research and its application show how to improve motivation, innovation and productivity.
Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning.
Because we all seek to thrive and live a meaningful life, we must recognize several realities of this concept.
A “pure” growth mindset does not exist. We are all a mix of fixed and growth. And we have triggers that activate a “fixed mindset”, creating blindspots and roadblocks for individuals, teams and organizations.
Mindset becomes “set” during adolescent years and has a noticeable impact on academic performance, resilience, motivation and innovation. It is essential to create environments where students can transform fixed mindset patterns. This requires that the adults model the desired growth mindset.
“Growth mindset” is commonplace language in many companies, even used in mission statements. Many school promote the ideas of growth mindset. Yet Dweck discovers that people’s understanding of the idea is limited, and the ability to put growth mindset into practice is challenging.
These three common misconceptions can become our stumbling blocks.
- I already have it, and I always have.
People often confuse a growth mindset with being flexible or open-minded or with having a positive outlook — qualities they believe they’ve simply always had. My colleagues and I call this a false growth mindset. Everyone is actually a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience. A “pure” growth mindset doesn’t exist, which we have to acknowledge in order to attain the benefits we seek.
- A growth mindset is about praising and rewarding effort.
This isn’t true for students in schools, and it’s not true for employees in organizations. In both settings, outcomes matter. Unproductive effort is never a good thing. It’s critical to reward not just effort but learning and progress, and to emphasize the processes that yield these things, such as seeking help from others, trying new strategies, and capitalizing on setbacks to move forward effectively. In all of our research, the outcome — the bottom line — follows from deeply engaging in these processes.
- Support growth mindset and good things will happen.
Mission statements are wonderful things. You can’t argue with lofty values like growth, empowerment, or innovation. But what do they mean to employees if the company doesn’t implement policies that make them real and attainable? They just amount to lip service.
Organizations that embody a growth mindset encourage appropriate risk-taking, knowing that some risks won’t work out. They reward employees for important and useful lessons learned, even if a project does not meet its original goals. They support collaboration across organizational boundaries rather than competition among employees or units. They are committed to the growth of every member, not just in words but in deeds, such as broadly available development and advancement opportunities. And they continually reinforce growth mindset values with concrete policies.
Our awareness and openness to the practices of mindset is transformative and worth exploring. The way we learn, work and manage offer examples of how we approach productive effort. In every environment, it is critical to reward not just effort but learning and progress. We must emphasize the processes that promote the outcomes we expect – such as seeking help from others, trying new strategies, capitalizing on setbacks to move forward effectively.
In all of the Mindset research, Dweck indicates that the outcome – the bottom line – results when people and organizations deeply engage in the clear processes of productive effort.
What’s the best way to get started with your growth mindset revolution? One way is to identify where you may have fixed mindset tendencies so that you can work to become more growth minded. We all live upon a continuum, and consistent self-assessment helps us become the person we want to be. Take the Mindset Assessment