Be honest with yourself: Are you someone who can’t take criticism? Believes you either ‘have it’ or don’t when it comes to talent and ability? Gets defensive and wants to give up when someone points out your mistakes? Fears failure? Believes you must have all the answers, and can’t show any weaknesses whatsoever in your workplace (especially if you are a manager)?
You may recognise none, some, or all of these, and I believe most of us will relate to some. What I’ve just described is classed as a ‘fixed mindset’. ‘Mindset’ is a concept introduced by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, which regards how we think about talent and abilities. To illustrate, a ‘fixed mindset’ regards abilities as innate in us and unchangeable. It considers failure as permanent, and feedback as a personal attack on who we are. We see things in black and white. A fixed mindset would lead us to choose the easier tasks and put in the minimal amount of effort because why bother trying? We can’t change.
Unfortunately, this mindset is especially prevalent in our work lives. It can be at a personal level, going back to what we are good at, what we’re bad at. But it can also be at an organisation level: managers and leaders projecting a belief about what others are good at, and what others are bad at. A fixed view regarding where everyone fits into the organisation and what their role is, and, as a result, change or development is not encouraged. It can be employees playing it safe and not taking creative risks, as, in companies where there is a predominantly fixed mindset, success is only measurable, and any mistake are considered as failures. This can create a restrictive, inflexible working environment. Yet, it’s extremely common.
But what if there was a different way? What if we didn’t have to be so restricted? Luckily, there is – a growth mindset.
A growth mindset believes that abilities can improve through practise. It doesn’t believe talent is everything, and instead believes that we are all capable of expanding, learning and growing. We don’t shy away from failure – we learn from it, the same with criticism (even though it may be excruciating to hear) and we embrace and welcome challenges, seeing them as a way of stretching and developing ourselves. People who employ growth mindsets tend to embrace grey thinking and get out of their comfort zones. They are risk-takers and opportunity makers, and see obstacles as a chance to experiment or problems that can be solved.
It must be stressed though – fixed and growth mindsets work on a continuum, you aren’t either one or the other and you are likely to move between them depending on what you are faced with. But it is important to know that there are the two options, as that provides you with a choice. For example, ‘am I going to see this as failure and take my bat home?’ (a common default response), or ‘shall I see this as something I can learn from?’. Once you know there is a choice, you can consciously make a decision about how to act.
Within the business world, this way of thinking is still in its infancy, but it’s quickly gaining fans and converts, as it’s realised that a company’s adopted mindset will have a big impact on how both the company and the employees within it will function.
A growth mindset accepts that both everyone is capable, and, simultaneously, that no one person has all the answers. This can feel at odds in a company where it is often believed that the boss, or manager, or someone of status has all the answers – but admitting that they don’t and that others might, will create this wonderful team environment, where you are all working to the same goal and in which everyone can contribute.
This can lead to hidden talents and capabilities being unearthed. It will allow people to push themselves – maybe there is a skill they want to learn or develop but never thought they could? A growth mindset would allow that to happen, and you’d see your company benefitting from these discoveries. You could also recruit from within, which would in turn build loyalty and employee engagement. These are just a few examples, but overall, your company will increase in terms of motivation and productivity. And who doesn’t want that?
If you want to know more about how you can use the concept of growth mindset within an L&D capacity, keep an eye out for our next articles as we will be exploring this in more detail.
As you might have guessed, growth mindset is something we are extremely passionate about here at Virtual College. Look out for us at the Learning Technologies exhibition on 13th and 14th February to find out more. Sarah Baker and Dan Nolan our Content Development Manager and Learning Technology Conslutant will be delivering a seminar on the Power of Growth Mindset and it's impact on an organisation's development programme. The seminar will be held on 13th February in Theatre 6 at 1.15pm.