Learning is an integral part of development and growth. Individuals who value learning and adopt it as part of their routine outperform those who do not.
It is this trait that enables them to meaningfully contribute towards their organization’s growth. However, is the desire to learn a trait that an individual is born with? Or is it something that can be developed over a period of time?
A research conducted over 2 decades by Carol Dweck of Stanford University states that intelligence and creativity can be developed and are not only traits that a person is born with. The inability to break status quo is attributed to having a fixed mindset while the desire to learn, develop and grow arises out of the growth mindset.
In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.
—Carol Dweck, Stanford University
What is a fixed mindset?
In a fixed mindset, individuals believe they have a fixed number of skills that are static in nature and thus cannot change. These people are highly aware of their current level of intelligence and focus on leveraging them to get the job done. They rarely take the efforts to develop and improve their existing skill set to become a better version of themselves. For them, they are already the best possible versions of themselves. It makes them think they can get all the work done based on their talent alone and hence minimal efforts will be required. This is harmful in the long run as it prevents their ability to grow, develop and learn new skills.
What is a growth mindset?
Conversely, in a growth mindset, individuals understand that all their learning and intelligence has tremendous scope for improvement and can significantly increase with time and experience. Once they realize that they have more scope for improvement, they take more efforts to reach greater heights.
An individual with a growth mindset will take it upon self to make sure all tasks are initiated and completed within time. They do not see failure as an obstacle but rather view it as an opportunity to develop their skills further. Organizations need to cultivate a culture that encourages employees to develop a growth mindset.
How to identify whether individuals have a fixed or growth mindset?
On the face of it, it is not obvious whether an individual has a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. But there are a couple of behaviors and traits that can be observed to determine their mindset.
By developing a growth mindset, individuals can dramatically improve their performance levels in the organization.
Impact of growth mindset on goal setting:
With a fixed mindset, individuals tend to set goals that are within their reach. They will aim for outcomes that can be guaranteed based on their current skill sets. It does not challenge them to aim higher nor does it encourage them to learn something new on the way.
A growth mindset enables these individuals to set challenging or stretch goals. It encourages them to take on challenges that break them out of their comfort zone and bring about improvement. Thus, instead of setting performance based goals, they should be setting goals where they have to consistently strive, learn and experiment new things. Read more about how to encourage learning in the workplace.
Impact of growth mindset on feedback
The growth mindset can also change the way you give and receive feedback in your organization. Here, you need to praise the efforts not the person himself/herself. Typical feedback talks about two things, namely achievements and traits that need to improve.
Any feedback session should be initiated by ensuring that the purpose behind it is improvement and not a rebuke or reprimand. This makes sure that employees do not get defensive and are open to feedback. That’s how you develop a growth mindset from the beginning of the conversation.
The way you speak or the language you use plays an important role in making sure whether or not the information will be conveyed.
|Fixed mindset||Growth mindset|
|1||You have been too aggressive in your approach with customers||You need to be more patient while dealing with customers|
|2||You haven’t met your targets this month||You need to make sure you achieve your targets by focusing on one deal at a time|
|3||Your plans were way off course||You could have planned a it better taking into considerations how to mitigate risks|
|4||You will never become a manager if you keep this up||You need to significantly improve your skills before taking on a managerial position|
|5||You are not able to handle multiple responsibilities||You can handle multiple responsibilities if your prioritize & delegate the workload|
Here, a fixed mindset indicates that there is no scope for improvement. Whereas with a growth mindset it can be seen there is a definite possibility of development and growth. The latter feedback is perceived positively and hence has a higher chance of making an impact on the individual.
To summarize, skills can be definitely cultivated, and do not have to be something that a person is born with. Anyone can become intelligent, creative or successful simply by focusing on the process and not the outcome of the efforts. Instead of worrying about the end result, focus on improving the skills required for successfully accomplishing any project. Only then will individuals realize that it’s not always about the result, but also about becoming a better version of themselves.
How to develop a growth mindset?
- Encourage employees to accept their limitation rather than hiding them
- Consider challenges as opportunities to improve themselves
- Try out a variety of approaches rather than taking the same approach to every situation
- Don’t wait for getting approval for your ideas, rather make learning a priority
- Enjoy the process of learning instead of anxiously waiting to enjoy the end result
- Celebrate small wins with other teammates and be a part of their wins as well
- Be patient while learning as opposed to rushing through the learning process
- Make sure efforts are acknowledged and not just the end results
- Ingrain in your work culture that ‘high achiever’ means someone who leverages hard work as well as their skills and not rely on either
- Do not view constructive criticism in a negative manner but use it positively to overcome your limitations
- Make regular learning a part of your routine and stick to it
- Understand that your brain requires regular exercise not unlike your muscles to stay fit and coherent
- Value determination and perseverance over street-smart and shortcuts
- Like your own mistakes, learn from your teammates mistakes as well to avoid repeating those mistakes
- Raise the bar once you reach your goals as there is always a scope for higher achievement
- Never be afraid to take calculated risks