You may well be aware by now of the work of psychologist and Stanford University professor, Carol Dweck, who identified the important difference between what she called “fixed” and “growth” mindsets. The fixed mindset belief is that our capabilities are innate capacity – we were either born with them or we weren’t – while individuals who have a growth mindset believe in the capacity for development through effort. Dweck discovered that a growth mindset is a prerequisite for the achievement of excellence, while a fixed mindset is almost guaranteed to result in mediocrity. This is true at a corporate and individual level.

The fixed mindset is so powerful that it will often lead people to turn down opportunities to improve, even when they are obviously necessary and require no initiative or effort to take advantage of them. For example, a study was conducted at the University of Hong Kong, where all classes are conducted in English. This gives some students a considerable advantage because not all of them arrive with equal skills in this area. A group of students with poor English were identified and sorted into fixed- and growth-mindset groupings. They were then asked whether they would like to take a remedial language class (that would not affect their grades).

Amazingly, most of the fixed mindset group refused the offer. In total contrast, the growth mindset group showed a high interest in taking the class. Those with a fixed mindset were prepared to jeopardise their future success rather than risk the possibility of failure in the remedial course.

The differences between these two mindsets are so deep-rooted that they even show up in brain scans. The brains of people with a fixed mindset “light up” to show interest when given feedback on their strengths, but during discussions where there is an opportunity for them to learn, their brains can be seen to switch off. They even fail to show interest in learning how to make corrections when they have made mistakes. As such, neuroscience proves that only those people with a growth mindset are genuinely interested in learning and being stretched.

Clearly, this is a critical issue for businesses, and leaders will always benefit from helping their employees to become more growth oriented. This article discusses some mechanisms by which you may be able to take advantage of crises, such as Covid-19 and is consequences, to help to cultivate this type of mindset more strongly.

Read the Article: 6 Ways a Crisis Can Help You Cultivate a Growth Mindset

My Advice

Research has clearly shown that, contrary to what most of our education, training and experience to date may have led us to believe, it is not innate ability or talent that brings success: the most important fundamental, underlying everything else, is mindset. The good news is that the key to a developing a productive, success-oriented mindset is to focus on learning.

During a crisis, the need to change can be even more evident than normal, so there may be no better time to practice the skills needed to stimulate learning and growth. With this in mind, there are two ideas in this article that I particularly love:

  • The concept of a “learn it all” culture, as opposed to the typical expertise-based culture which is described here as “know it all”.
  • Making a practice of asking people what they’ve learnt.

Whenever we ask a question it changes the thought processes that are taking place in the other person’s mind. It literally hijacks their thinking to focus it on the subject of the question, not only changing what the brain is doing in that instant, but also starting to shift future behaviour. By asking great questions you can align thinking and behaviour with growth, thus orienting your people and your business in that direction.