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Failing Faster & Building a Growth Mindset Culture

Teenage Girl, writing educational Word cloud

I’ve been familiar with the work from Carol Dweck for some time (I’m referring to her best-selling book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”), but it was at a recent visit to Los Angeles for a Vistage gathering that I gained a new perspective on this topic.

Dr. Eve Grodnitzky, the author of “The Art + Science of Getting from Impasse to Insight” was the keynote speaker and provided a slightly broader take on the “Mindset” concept: looking at it from an organizational culture perspective and exploring how as leaders we set the tone for a particular type of mindset within our organizations.

First, as organizations, we need to take stock of our existing culture and determine where we stand. Are we culturally more “fixed” or “growth” mindset oriented? There are a few easy ways to see where your organization stands on the continuum.

Your organization has a “fixed” mindset culture if these behaviors are prevalent:

  • You hire and reward based only on intelligence and skills.
  • Feedback is feared.
  • Failure is punished.
  • Challenges are avoided.
  • The “easy” path is preferred.

On the other hand, your organization may already be leaning toward a “growth” mindset if you are more likely to see more of this behavior:

  • Challenges are welcomed.
  • Open-mindedness toward different perspectives.
  • Rewards systems based on effort, risk-taking (even failure), and learning.
  • Feedback is proactively sought and utilized for improvement.

So why would it be important to move your organization from a “fixed” to a “growth” mindset? A growth-mindset organization is more able to adapt to changing environments, deliver creative solutions, attract top performers and retain high value customers. Moreover, “growth” mindset companies tend to attract “growth” mindset clients, which I think we can all agree, tend to be a lot more interesting to work with than “fixed” mindset clients.

As leaders, one of the most difficult aspects to adjust in a “growth” mindset culture is our perception of failure. To be truly growth-mindset oriented, we must welcome failure. Dr. Grodnitzky said it best: “Fail early, fail often, fail cheap.”  We must get comfortable with risk and failure to truly embrace a growth-mindset culture.

Three things we can each do today to step into a “growth” mindset:

  • Allocate budget and resources toward experimentation. Give teams opportunity to fail and provide key learnings back to the team or to the client from these efforts. When something goes wrong, instead of blaming, document and share key learnings, then move on.
  • Seek candid feedback from a customer and make a plan to act on their input.
  • Start using “growth” mindset language. Instead of telling someone they are “awesome” when they produce a great report, let them know specifically what they did (“Your report was clear and concise with helpful charts. I can tell you put a lot of time into it.”)

How does your organization embrace a growth mindset? We’d love to hear your insights!

Posted on August 12, 2015 in Events & Happenings, Ideas, Inspirations, Observations & Trends

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