Growth Mindset in the Modern Business
Growth Mindset developed by Dweck and colleagues (Yeager, Legett, Goplan, Reger, Yin, and many more) from 1988 onwards is the ‘belief that intellectual ability can be developed (2020). A fixed mindset is associated with a focus on negative feelings/inferences around failure. Fixed and growth are sometimes positioned as versus each other. Others consider them as part of a continuum rather than an either-or–growth or fixed.
Often used in schools, ‘growth mindset’ interventions serve, it is hoped, to motivate pupils to not accept the status quo. The research looks at under what conditions, when and why interventions have an impact – encouraging the adoption of a growth mindset is not as easy as it might sound. A challenge is that this work is done within school populations and often the concept is used in business settings.
Importantly for learning environments in businesses, a growth mindset is associated with learning and goal theory. Learners who have the goal of validating their competence (say through tests) or wishing to avoid looking incompetent, tend to have helpless reactions and unproductive beliefs about effort relative to learners whose goal is to develop their ability – learning to learn better in essence. The question becomes - how can we help everyone to move away from helplessness to performance goals. Improving the response to challenges and setbacks must be the aim of growth mindset interventions in organisations.
This is therefore pointed in the logic of the growth mindset that transfers over to modern businesses. We know hyper-competition, VUCA and BANI environments, technology emergence and digital transformation present challenges and create setbacks. Agility encourages us to try and fail fast. And whilst the failures might therefore be smaller, they are still there. We also know that context matters to explain the variation in the impact of growth mindset interventions.
Burn out in the Modern Business
Importantly, we cannot assume staff in the business world can adopt a growth mindset with ease or indeed often. We might deem a growth mindset to be advantageous and we might wish to alter the beliefs around learning – but in organisations leaning into opportunities, challenges and failing fast can take its toll. We know that reskilling and upskilling at speed and inevitably in ways that affect professional identity can be exhausting. Learning has always been associated with career progression but those associations tend to be more overt in modern times and can be associated with prior job roles not existing and the threat of redundancy.
Our QA Perspective
We value the use of a growth mindset in the businesses we work with. In the work we do, learners are often engaging with learning multiple times in a year. They can be deepening their tech specialism. They can be upskilling as the languages, systems, and tech stack they work with change and counter technical debt. They can of course be radically reskilling. They can be rounding their tech skills with human skills. In all these cases it helps them to not think their intelligence is fixed. Our QA perspective though is not to stop here, which would be too easy and not realistic enough.
We follow the research in considering that there is a diversity of reactions to interventions around a growth mindset and these need to be accommodated. We involve context in terms of resilience and well-being. Relating a growth mindset to resilience and well-being is productive. It helps ensure that learners consider when and how adopting a growth mindset is aligned to business needs – for example when innovation is required or uncertainty results in many fail fasts in sequence It helps the person gain from leaning in by focusing on how that builds resilience. It makes the point that we cannot always be forever in growth mindset mode especially if many fail fasts occur and we must protect our wellbeing.
Our perspective is also to work with a specialist partner to integrate the practice of changing mindsets into our learning programmes to bring our authentic selves to work and yet continue to reach our potential. Contact us to find out more about the role a careful approach to a Growth Mindset can have on your learning culture in tech-rich digitally transforming contexts where VUCA and BANI thrive.
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