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The Growth Mindset — Mindset For Success

These are unprecedented times. With unprecedented industries making unprecedented leaps; and folks who are willing to learn new skill sets day in and day out, who are readily accepting of the fact that “I don’t know it all” — will be more likely to adapt to the “new normal”.

In an interview, McKinsey’s Biljana Cvetanovski talks to Capita Chief Growth Officer (Capita — international outsourcing company with revenues of £3.9 billion), Ismail Amla about the growth-leadership mindset — and my key takeaway was: in the growth-leadership mindset we have the ability to try, fail, and learn from that. We have the ability to move at a pace that we’ve not moved at before. We have the ability to overcome obstacles.

I work with Microsoft as a Cloud Architect, and I interact with people of different skill sets, different levels of experience, different backgrounds and different designations every single day. If there’s one thing every accomplished person has in common — it is their ability to channel a growth mindset.

If you work in technology, you know that every day is about racing against technological evolution and more often than not — slowly catching up to it. It becomes a necessity more than a “beneficial trait” to make the shift from a fixed mindset → to a growth a mindset. Let me break it down for you -

A fixed mindset doesn’t easily allow you to change course. You believe that someone either has ‘it’ or they don’t: it’s a very binary frame of mind. You don’t believe in growth, you believe in right and wrong, and any suggestion of change or adaptation is considered a criticism. You don’t know how to adopt grey thinking.”

I recently started my journey as a Mentor Of Change for Atal Innovation’s Mission (AIM), NITI Aayog, Government Of India. I teach (and learn from) young minds and help shape their ideas — in turn motivating them to innovate, believe and learn it all. In my most recent training to prepare as a Mentor Of Change, we discussed how to turn a student’s mindset from — I need to learn it to pass an exam to I need to learn it to leverage it in the real world. How to make them believe in the power of thinking ahead?

When preparing modules for my mentees, I draw a lot of inspiration from Carol Dweck, Author, Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success and her spectacular, reputed research on growth mindset. One of my key learnings was that students’ mindsets — how they perceive their abilities — play an essential role in their motivation and achievement and that if we changed students’ mindsets, we could boost their performance. More precisely, students who believe their intelligence can be developed (a growth mindset) outperform those who believe their intelligence is fixed (a fixed mindset). And when students learn through a structured program that they could “grow their brains” and increase their intellectual abilities, they do better. Many educators have applied the mindset principles suggested by Dweck in spectacular ways with tremendously gratifying results.

Fixed vs Growth Mindset

My focus has also been on channelling what I apply at Microsoft into the lessons I create for my mentees. The best way to explain a concept like this one is through a counterintuitive approach, similar to 7th grade Math — prove the opposite is wrong.

“Growth mindset” has become a buzzword in many major companies, even working its way into their mission statements. But when I probe, I often discover that people’s understanding of the idea is limited.

  1. I already have it, and I always have. People often confuse a growth mindset with being flexible or open-minded or with having a positive outlook — qualities they believe they’ve simply always had. This is false growth mindset. Everyone is a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience. A growth mindset doesn’t exist, which we have to acknowledge to attain the benefits we seek.

  2. Just espouse a growth mindset, and good things will happen. Mission statements are wonderful things. You can’t argue with lofty values like growth, empowerment, or innovation. But what do they mean to employees if the company doesn’t implement policies that make them real and attainable? Organizations that embody a growth mindset encourage appropriate risk-taking, knowing that some risks won’t work out. They reward employees for relevant and useful lessons learned, even if a project does not meet its original goals. They support collaboration across organizational boundaries rather than competition among employees or units. They are committed to the growth of every member, not just in words but in deeds, such as broadly available development and advancement opportunities. And they continually reinforce growth mindset values with concrete policies.

When we face challenges, receive criticism, or fare poorly compared with others, we can easily fall into defensiveness, a response that inhibits growth. Our work environments, too, can be full of fixed-mindset triggers. A company that plays the talent game makes it harder for people to practice growth-mindset thinking and behaviour, such as sharing information, collaborating, innovating, and seeking different perspectives.

However, at the risk of sounding ambitious, here are a few ways in which one can successfully channel a growth mindset:

  1. Continuous Learning: The foundation of a growth mindset is the willingness to be a lifelong learner. With the evolution of online learning, one can further or enhance his or her education. With knowledge, effort, exploration, and practice, people can always keep growing. When the information is literally at your fingertips, there’s no excuse not to take advantage of an opportunity to better yourself.

  2. Guiding Practices: Companies set the tone by governing employees’ practices with cornerstones of their respective business, such as respect, integrity, and collaboration. To reinforce a growth mindset, companies must encourage employees to anticipate and adapt to change, take informed risks, and believe that teamwork makes the dream work!

  3. Embracing Change: An exact growth mindset’s foundation is the ability and willingness to adapt and change when necessary. Change must come from or be supported by the top to make it work, but for it to be truly successful, all stakeholders must be a part of it. It’s inherent that people want to succeed and improve; companies must capitalize on human nature and allow all employees the opportunity to help shape and mould the company’s initiatives.

Fostering an environment that provides opportunities for continual learning allows and support improvement. A growth mindset acknowledges our ability to change and understands that with practice, we can all be better.

It’s hard work, but individuals and organizations can gain a lot by deepening their understanding of growth-mindset concepts and the processes for putting them into practice. It gives them a more vibrant sense of who they are, what they stand for, and how they want to move forward.

Now’s a great time to ask yourself -

Could you profit more from the feedback you get? Are there ways you can create more learning experiences for yourself?

Say it again, learn it all > know it all.

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