In the last couple of decades, with the popularity of Stanford professor Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, a lot has been written about the concept of growth mindset in parenting and educational circles. It is now largely accepted that you must not compliment children for fixed traits, rather reinforce that qualities are learnable.
Comment, if you must, on their ability to grow by enthusiastically embracing challenges. We want to switch children from being in a “fixed mindset” (they have a fixed amount of inborn intelligence, and therefore they should shy away from constructive criticism and challenges where they may fail) to a “growth mindset” (intelligence and a brain is simply a muscle that can grow—in which case criticism, challenges, failure are all welcome as an engine of growth).
The good news is that it is easy to switch people from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. And the benefits are enormous. In the classroom and corporate studies, putting people in growth mindsets makes it more likely that they:
1. Profit from their mistakes: Admit to where they went wrong and use the learnings to redirect their efforts.
2. Seek out criticism and consensus, instead of falling in the trap of groupthink (for group tasks).
3. Willingly choose more challenging tasks, even at the risk of failure or losing face.
Running a start-up, I see a unique opportunity to use growth mindset principles in hiring, managing and mentoring employees. For example, I ask some questions that help me understand the extent of the growth mindset in a prospective candidate—What has been your most significant achievement? What did you learn most recently? When did you last receive coaching?
Probing specifics in the answer will help understanding if the candidate wants to rest on their laurels or has an appetite to continuously learn and grow. From our experience, employees with growth mindsets do tend to work differently. They don’t wait to be told what to do, they are constantly looking for problems and challenges to be solved, and are driven to grow personally and professionally.
Switching mindsets to pursue growth is possible. For most readers, there is a fairly good chance that you have been called “gifted” or “intelligent” or some variant of that. Has that affected any of your life decisions? Did you choose an easier path at any point? Did you find yourself paralyzed by criticism or failure? If the answer to any of these questions is a yes to any of these, it’s worth it to pick up the book or do some further research into the growth mindset.
Previously Published On Thrive Global by Nishant Jain