Growth Mindset as a Strategy for Growth

Do you want growth? Probably. But, are you focusing on it from the right angle?

You find the Swedish version of this article at BreakIT (Sweden’s biggest online magazine about entrepreneurship and start-ups), where I work as a chronicler. If this article makes you curious for more, please back our ongoing Kickstarter for The Book Of Collaboration. Thanx!

30 years ago, an inquisitive little girl was looking at the teacher, so proud of the fact that she solved the whole math-book in advance. The teacher said, “You are very clever, now you can make a drawing instead”.

15 years ago, a curious young woman was sitting on an uncomfortable bench, at the Castle of Uppsala. looking at slides on Platonism in the Renaissance. The teacher said, “This is what you need to know at the exam”. She memorized it and got the highest grade.

Today, I am a 36-year-old woman. I am good at drawing, hate math and lost my interest in the Renaissance long time ago. Anyone, who recognize themselves?

Most of us have grown up with a school system, and view of learning, that has restricted us, regardless of whether we belonged to those who thought the school was easy or not. It still limits us.

In today's fast-changing, global, digital world the absolute truths are few. Knowledge and facts are available to almost everyone, and machines process data at a rapid pace. An article may be fake news, a video may be deep fake.

Presidents do not always speak the truth, and your degree is no longer relevant.

Applying a Growth Mindset

Our old way of looking at knowledge, and looking at learning, is therefore obsolete: The idea of being good or bad at something. That knowledge is about memorizing facts. That there are a right and a wrong answer. That you know something when nailing a test. This attitude makes us learn less, perform worse, and avoid challenges, because of the fear of failing.

We need to unlearn everything we once learned about learning, and look at learning in a new way.

In videos circulating from the World Economic Forum in 2018, Jack Ma, founder of AliBaba, talks about what we need to teach our children. In short, he thinks we should focus on everything that the robots can’t do better. He talks about independent thinking, creativity, questioning, teamwork, and empathy. I would like to add that this applies not only to children. It concerns you.

This text is not about the school system, it's about you and the company you're working on. It is about learning and having a growth mindset, as a strategy for growth.

When I was 23 years old I left the University of Uppsala, and started at the business school Hyper Island. Hyper Island was already back then very progressive in how they viewed education and learning. They had a strong focus on teams, feedback, and self-leadership, and, there were no teachers. What I understand now is that our mentors trained us in Growth Mindset.

Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, coined the phrase Growth Mindset. She believes that there are people who lean towards a fixed mindset and those who lean towards a Growth Mindset.

Her research shows that students with a Growth Mindset learn more.

Her research shows that employees with a Growth Mindset achieve higher results over time. Her research also shows that Growth Mindset can be developed.

Employees leaning towards a Growth Mindset:

  • Believe that everything is possible to learn.

  • See failures as an opportunity to grow.

  • Believe that effort and mindset affect abilities.

  • Are inspired by the success of others.

  • Like to test new things.

  • Want feedback (when given in a constructive way).

  • Share their knowledge.

Maybe talking about this is a good thing when interviewing someone for a job opening? Maybe this is something to think about in relation to yourself? Maybe this is important if you lead others?

Growth Mindset in teams

Right now, my Growth Mindset is set under pressure. We are in the middle of this Kickstarter campaign for The Book of Collaboration - a series of mini-books with hands-on models and tools to create effective teams and higher engagement in workplaces.

When we did not get the speed we expected on the first day of the crowdfunding campaign, I just wanted to pull an old blanket over me. I stayed home on my couch, in a fetal position, and felt very very bad. I just wanted to give up. My brain was fixed.

People in the team said - Great! What can we learn from this? Should we try this? How can I help you?

With the help of active self-leadership and people around me, I got up on my feet again. Re-boot. I asked for feedback and advice, got help, tested new things, and actively used the knowledge I already had. It helped, and now we have both momentum and a plan (guess what, this article is a part of that plan :) If you are passionate about how to create team magic, you can back us by pre-ordering your book with hands-on tools here).

At workplaces, you should focus on creating a culture where growth mindset thrives. Most importantly is a high level of psychological safety, where employees dare to come up with ideas, give and receive feedback, test, and, sometimes “fail”. But also, pay attention to learning. Encourage learning. You have to believe that everyone can develop and actively invest in everyone's development.

I listen for an appreciative, collaborative and future-focused language: What strategy do we test next? Great start, what should we do more of? What did you learn? Whom can you talk to about this?

You want to work where you find that mindset. At that company, growth comes sure as fate.

(And, sorry for the Swenglish. Sometimes done is better than perfect, right?!)

/Anna Gullstrand

Photo by pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

Anna Gullstrand