Individuals with a growth mindset believe that their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others). They typically outperform those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).
This is because they are less concerned with appearing intelligent and devote more time and effort to learning. When entire organizations adopt a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed, as well as receiving far more organizational support for collaboration and innovation.
People at primarily fixed-mindset companies, on the other hand, tend to operate from the standpoint of one view… “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.
Following these findings, the term “growth mindset” has become a buzzword in many major corporations, even making its way into their mission statements. However, when when you dig a little deeper, you will frequently discover that people’s understanding of the concept is limited.
Let’s look at a few common misunderstandings…
1. I already have it and have always had it.
People frequently confuse a growth mindset with being flexible, open-minded, or having a positive outlook — qualities they believe they have always possessed.
This is what is referred to as a “false growth mindset”. Everyone is a mix of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mix evolves with experience. There is no such thing as a “pure” growth mindset, which we must acknowledge in order to reap the benefits we seek.
2. A growth mindset consists solely of praising and rewarding effort.
This is not true for students in schools, nor is it true for employees in businesses. In both cases, the outcome is important.
It is never a good idea to put forth ineffective effort. It is critical to recognize and reward not only effort but also learning and progress, as well as the processes that result in these outcomes, such as seeking help from others, experimenting with new strategies, and capitalizing on setbacks to move forward effectively. In all research, the outcome — the bottom line — is the result of deeply engaging in these processes.
3. Simply adopt a growth mindset, and good things will follow.
Mission statements are fantastic. It’s impossible to argue with lofty values like growth, empowerment, and innovation. But what do they mean to employees if the company doesn’t put policies in place to make them a reality? They are merely lip service.
Organizations that embrace a growth mindset encourage appropriate risk-taking while acknowledging that some risks will fail. Employees are rewarded for important and useful lessons learned, even if a project does not meet its original objectives. They encourage cross-organizational collaboration rather than competition among employees or units.
They are committed to the development of every member, not just in words but also in actions, such as making development and advancement opportunities widely available. They, too, continually reinforce growth mindset values with concrete policies.
Even if we dispel these myths, achieving a growth mindset will be difficult. One reason for this is that we all have our own set of fixed-mindset triggers. When we face challenges, receive criticism, or perform poorly in comparison to others, we can easily succumb to insecurity or defensiveness, which inhibits growth.
Fixed-mindset triggers can also be found in our work environments. When a company plays the talent game, it makes it more difficult for employees to engage in growth-mindset thinking and behavior, such as sharing information, collaborating, innovating, seeking feedback, or admitting mistakes.
To stay in the growth zone, we must identify and address these triggers. Many executives and managers have benefited from learning to recognize when their fixed-mindset “persona” appears and what it says to make them feel threatened or defensive. Most importantly, they have learned to converse with it, persuading it to collaborate with them as they pursue difficult goals.
It’s difficult work, but individuals and organizations can benefit greatly from deepening their understanding of growth-mindset concepts and the processes for putting them into action. It gives them a more complete understanding of who they are, what they stand for, and how they want to proceed.
-LTD Media President Clint P.