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Just what could a growth mindset do for you?

23rd Oct 2015
Editor HRZone
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Meta-LUCID's Mark McCarthy talks us through the concept of Fixed and Growth Mindsets in business, and their partnership with best-selling author Matthew Syed.

This content originally appeared on our sister site TrainingZone.

The concept of the 'Growth Mindset' has been around for a while but has only recently become popular in corporate performance improvement. Why do you think this is?

The body of research that Prof Carol Dweck undertook in this area was back in the early 80s and was then popularised by her book 'Mindset: The New Psychology of Success' in 2006. She co-founded a company called Mindset Works Inc. in 2008 which took this research and created tools for the US education market, where they have been very successful - and not just in the US.

Meta-LUCID entered into an exclusive, global agreement with Mindset Works Inc. earlier this year to take their existing tools and methods to develop, extend and add to, for application in the commercial marketplace.

I can't make comment on the popularity in the corporate market place, but I am sure there are organisations looking at the notion of Growth Mindset by dint of reading Carol’s book, listening to her Ted Talks and that of Ed Briceño, CEO of the firm.

Also the award-winning book 'Bounce: The Myth of Talent' and 'The Power of Practice' by Matthew Syed (2010) did a lot to bring Growth Mindsets into the consciousness of both individuals and businesses. For me, mindset in the context and way that Carol Dweck positions it is critical when we design and implement change-based or people development programmes for businesses.

What are the characteristics of someone with a Growth Mindset and how does it help them succeed in business?

There is a mindset continuum along which someone will anchor, whether it is weak/strong, fixed or growth. It will reveal deeply held beliefs and values about what a person believes in when it comes to skills, abilities and intelligence, talent.

In simple terms, a Fixed Mindset suggests that you are born with what you have and that there are inherent limits to intelligence, talent and what a person can achieve, whereas a Growth Mindset believes that a person’s abilities can be developed through effort. That intelligence or talent is not a fixed entity and can be developed and improved with the appropriate strategies.

So in one sense there are no convenient labels or characteristics that show if a person has a Fixed or Growth Mindset. It is more about what and how they deal with the following domains; challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism and success of others. It is the discretionary effort employed by the individual that makes the difference in performance outcomes. However it is a consequence of having a Growth Mindset.

The business environment is becoming more complex and less predictable. Success will not be confined to the traditional notions. Back in 1957 Peter Drucker coined the term 'knowledge worker', describing the business world moving from the industrial era to the knowledge era.

This is about people and how people develop and use knowledge to drive individual performance that leads to improved organisational performance. These people will require values and beliefs that allow them to embrace complexity (messiness), the unpredictable, the ambiguous, to solve problems and innovate.

Those two goals are probably what most CEOs or leaders would want to be able to effectively address, today, to drive competitive advantage. And, it's about the right people doing the right things in the right way; demonstrating a growing source of discretionary effort.

How do you motivate members of the workforce who have a Fixed Mindset and don’t believe they can change or learn new skills?

Motivation is really not where I would start, as that is down to the individual and is ultimately in their control. As with any set of beliefs and values a person holds, they have been acquired through experience and therefore new or adjusted ones can replace them; the key is how.

We have developed a process that helps people who have a predominately Fixed Mindset to begin to shift their values and beliefs to that of a Growth Mindset in their own terms and context.

There are no guarantees that a shift will occur but I am confident that just the illumination and experience of the process will both explain their performance levels and will reveal a different belief system; this is never a binary shift, it takes time. The fact of the matter remains stable, in all research, that people can develop and acquire mastery in any discipline they wish.

Read Outliers by Gladwell, Bounce by Syed, The Talent Code by Coyle…I could go on.

How can leaders quickly identify someone with a growth mindset, for example the language they use?

That is a great question and one we often face in our work around leadership identification and development. We have designed in conjunction with Mindset Works Inc. a survey of 16 questions that scores an individual on the mindset continuum that I mentioned earlier.

This is quick but also more reliable than using dialogue to assess in the initial stages. But there are outward signs in both language and more importantly behaviour that would suggest either a Fixed or Growth Mindset. We have specific programmes that help leaders develop their skills to manage both mindset types, help transition a person from fixed to growth and to develop a Growth Mindset team/function cultural orientation.

Are there other attributes or qualities that generally correlate with growth mindsets?

I am sure intuitively there are, but I am not aware of any research that has sought this out empirically. However, I had an epiphany moment with what we call the 'match fitness' of the Growth Mindset person and an A Player profile from the Topgrading research.

It says that an A Player will (in short hand) handle ambiguity, learn lessons from failure, demonstrates resilience, seeks feedback, and experiments to innovate. To be able to do these things or demonstrate them you undeniably have to be a Growth Mindset person. I would go farther and say these two constructs are causal.

I would like to emphasise that people often confuse Growth Mindset with positivity or confidence, or being an alternative to NLP or other mindset-based models. The question one has to ask is which mindset is most able to best convert those strategies into results or outcomes. Likewise, the more A Players you have in your organisation the more likely you are to outperform your competition or targets.

Tell us a bit about your upcoming event that introduces us not only to the Growth Mindset idea but also Meta-LUCID.

On the 29 October we are holding a two-hour seminar called 'Fostering a Growth Mindset Culture' in London where we have a limited number of spaces for people to hear from Ed Briceño, CEO at Mindset Works Inc., and Matthew Syed, award-winning author talking about his new book, 'Black Box Thinking'.

Both will discuss how a Growth Mindset individual and culture drives innovation, adaptability and high performance in disruptive and fluid environments with a live Q&A session after each session. Also, Meta-LUCID will be facilitating an optional 90-minute introduction workshop to Growth Mindset concepts and tools. Finally, all guests will get a personal signed copy of Matthew’s latest book, published last month.  

For more info on the Growth Mindset concept and to reserve a place at the exclusive event, 'Fostering a Growth Mindset culture', have a look here 

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