How many times have you heard the motivational saying, “whether you think they can or can’t, you are right”. Apparently, there’s much truth in it. Because, we as humans, see failure either as an insurmountable obstacle or as an opportunity to try again, differently.
Carol Dweck, now a renowned psychologist, first noticed this back in the 1970s. And after two decades of research, she divided people into two general groups based on their mindsets. She labeled the people who view talent and ability as fixed entities that cannot be changed as having a “fixed mindset”. And the other group, that sees talent and abilities as something that’s flexible, and can be reshaped and developed through effort as having a “growth mindset”.
If having a certain mindset can make a difference in the way individuals deal with everyday situations and influence their success, can an organization, like an individual, have a fixed or growth mindset?
The short answer is yes.
Fixed vs Growth Mindset Organizations
We know that employee engagement is a critical factor in maintaining high levels of productivity. Since productivity is important for the overall performance, organizations continuously try to find new ways to eliminate time wasters and increase engagement. One efficient way is switching from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset-based culture. Here’s why.
In organizations that foster a fixed mindset, the culture is internally competitive. Very often, employees avoid working in teams with high-performers for fear of falling behind because managers of high-performing teams are not in any way incentivized to help low-performers on the team. Team meetings are formal and do not provide much room for creativity, innovation or risk-taking. People don’t have much trust in the company and are less committed. They regularly keep secrets, or cut corners and try to cheat their way ahead.
On the other hand, companies that foster a growth mindset develop a culture that is focused on collaboration, cooperation, listening, learning and harnessing individual talents. People enjoy challenges and strive to learn, see their colleagues as trustworthy and feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company. They see potential in themselves and their colleagues and know they can develop new skills. They also believe the company supports taking risks and innovation. These and similar indicators of employee engagement are correlated with higher financial returns, and turn the organizational culture into a recruiting tool.
How Can you Cultivate a Growth Mindset?
Switching from a fixed to a growth mindset may not be easy, but it’s not impossible. You can create an organizational culture the rests upon a growth mindset by teaching and encouraging certain behaviors that can help individuals, teams and the whole organization shift their mindset over time.
You need to instill the beliefs and attitudes that growth is more important than a rigid focus on perfection and results. Teach habits that put the emphasis on continuous development, progress, experimentation and learning from others. And you must ensure that a growth culture starts and is spread from your top-level management.
There are a few practical ways to shape a growth mindset in your organization:
- Seek out learners and promote people from within the company
Over time, experience increases, and people struggle to either see new ideas or suggest them, which leads to stagnation. IN order to fuel a growth mindset that drives your organization forward, it’s important to identify people whose performance capacity can be developed, and show a real commitment to learning. People who value learning and strive for continual knowledge, have a natural growth mindset that can help you build a strong learning culture, and move your business towards success.
- Build a culture that is open to taking risks and sees failure as a learning opportunity
Since failure is an inevitable part of growth, you must accept the chance that you might fail. Leaders should set an example, but also allow employees to take on leadership roles. Give employees the freedom to be independent and try new things, fail, and learn from the mistakes. Taking on challenges will drive commitment, determination and innovation.
- Allow people to step out of their comfort zones
Cultivating a growth mindset means enabling people to do more than just their daily work. You should allow and encourage people to learn and develop new skills, even if they are outside of their primary work focus. It can help multidisciplinary teams collaborate better because they understand other people’s roles, and can encourage approaching problems from a new perspective.
Continuous Improvement Drives Success
Saying that businesses must skillfully navigate the shifting landscapes and view setbacks as learning opportunities is borderline cliché. Yet, for many managers, meeting these demands is still a mystery. And since culture can easily defeat strategy, the best way to adapt to the ever-changing times requires a set of shared values, everyday habits, and systems that support organizational change and growth.
Relying on a collective belief that continuous progress, development, collaboration, seeing opportunity and potential in everything can help you build the needed organizational agility, resilience and flexibility to overcome problems. A growth mindset will move your business forward and can be your secret weapon towards continual business success.