The Growth Mindset
Updated: May 8, 2020
Every so often you read a book that changes your outlook on life. This spring, that book for me was Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Carol weaves together an impressive collection of ideas based on her years of education, research and experiences. It’s a book about mindset and how we perceive it in our lives and how we fall prey to it. The book covers a wide variety of applications from school to business, relationships to parenting. Not only does Carol flood each chapter with easy-to-read information, she ends the chapters with ways to apply the lessons and recognize how the mindset influences your life. The sheer amount of information from the vast number of studies she’s conducted should overwhelm you, but the tone of the book is conversational and written in easy to digest layman’s terms.
The first two chapters discuss the two main mindsets and how to recognize them. A fixed mindset believes that your qualities and innate abilities are carved into stone and you only have a fixed amount of intelligence. A fixed mindset believes that your personality and moral character are unchangeable. A person with a fixed mindset is always striving to prove themself over and over again but only within what they were born “good” at. A growth mindset, on the other hand, believes that your qualities and innate abilities can be cultivated through strategic effort and help from others. Nothing is fixed or set in stone in the growth mindset and all can be changed (including your personality and moral character) through development and effort.
The following chapters discuss the truth about ability versus accomplishment, where do mindsets come from, and how to change them. She layers each of her chapters with real life examples from sports champions, business leaders, teachers, parents, coaches, and students. I have several favorite takeaways or lessons from these chapters. One lesson is that people in a growth mindset are always looking for challenge because they thrive on the stretch that big goals bring. This is echoed by another passage that says “Becoming is better than being.”
I think this book teaches several valuable lessons but to focus on the business side quickly, I think it teaches us how to build better teams. Of the several examples Carol shares, there is a common thread in the recruitment strategies of the successful growth mindset leaders. As they recruit students or positions, these leaders look for the candidates who not only respond well to criticism but are energized by it. When NASA recruited astronauts, they stayed away from people who only had successes in their lives and instead hunted for people who failed and bounced back. The ”bounced back” is important because it showcases a candidate's capacity for growth.
Because what is the result of a growth mindset team? In these constantly changing times, a fixed mindset team has been created to produce perfection at one operating level or in a set of strict guidelines. As COVID-19 has shown us, those strict guidelines have probably been blown to hell. A growth mindset team is adaptable, their strategic effort produces results because they are constantly challenging themselves and their abilities. Talent alone is not enough, and focusing on talent has been the downfall of companies. After reading this book, I would always choose a less talented person with a growth mindset over a genius with a fixed mindset and no interest in growing.
I could probably write several more pages with all of the lessons I learned from Carol Dweck’s book but instead I’ll encourage you to go read it and leave you with one of my favorite passages as it applies to developing businesses. “Create an organization that prizes the development of ability - and watch the leaders emerge.”