The traditional view in business is that people are born with a fixed amount of intelligence and talent; individual capabilities are firmly set in stone, no amount of training can change those capabilities.
This idea, what Stanford University professor, Carol Dweck, calls a “fixed mindset,” influences workplace managers to leverage employees who quickly display natural ability – and to invest little time and resources seeking to develop all the others.
Carol Dweck challenges this paradigm in her insightful Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – an inquiry into the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious, and how changing even the simplest of them can change careers and lives.
How we view and inhabit what we consider to be our personality is a basic belief that determines our future: A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static which we can’t change in any impactful way, and success is the affirmation of that given intelligence. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a welcome springboard for growth and for expanding our existing abilities.
One of the advantages of the growth mindset is the inherent passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Any human qualities can be cultivated through effort and continuous practice. Failure is not regarded as discouraging; it’s a learning experience.
“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends and partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
Based on research and her synthesized insights, Dweck blows up the long-enduring paradigm of human limitation. She proves that a person’s potential is “unknown and unknowable.” Regardless of talent, aptitude and IQ – people can greatly expand their abilities through effort, thoughtful coaching, and experience.
Dweck’s work represents a hugely expansive idea in business. She shows that leaders who possess a fixed mindset greatly limit employees and their impact on the organization. Alternatively, when managers foster a “growth mindset”, they intentionally challenge, mentor, and nurture the development of their people knowing their future contributions will expand as they sprout new competencies.