5 Top Tips for Developing a Growth Mindset

Turbulence, change and uncertainty are all just part of everyday life at the moment. It feels like one thing after another is being sent to challenge us. Change can be difficult – who hasn’t had their head in their hands at some point over the last three months – but it can also be an opportunity. As we move into a post-lockdown world, it’s time to start thinking differently.

If you have school-age kids, you’re probably familiar with the term ‘growth mindset’. Coined by Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist, the basic premise is that success is not just a product of our innate abilities and talents but more about the way that we approach our goals. Believing that you can cultivate your abilities through practice and that they are not fixed, really does motivate you to achieve bigger and better things.

Developing a growth mindset is very akin to agile methodologies. We see more and more organisations turning to this way of working to survive in a fast-moving ambiguous environment. Like agile, growth mindset is all about failing fast, perseverance and pivoting where necessary – being able to be fleet of foot and not hang on to your established ways of dealing with things.

I recently published an article about why developing a growth mindset is essential to corporate learning. If we want to encourage these behaviours in our organisations, we also need to be modelling them ourselves. So how can we do this?

  1. Embrace the power of ‘not yet’. Next time you’re faced with something that you don’t think you can do, instead of thinking ‘I can’t do this’, try saying to yourself ‘I can’t do this YET’. That tiny little word really does make all the difference but it does take some conscious effort to remember to add it in.
  2. If something doesn’t work, reframe that failure as a learning experience. Help others to do that as well. I won’t lie, it feels really uncomfortable to start with. Most of us have been brought up through school systems which stigmatise failure. Again, the semantics help – instead of saying ‘ I failed at X’ try saying ‘ I haven’t succeeded at X YET’. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t and make a plan for what to try changing next time to make it work better.
  3. Set yourself a stretch goal and reward yourself for perseverance in achieving it. An example of this could be sticking to a training plan for running a race. You could buy yourself a chocolate bar for every week you complete or whatever reward floats your boat.
  4. Push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Try something new (and try it more than once – remember point 3 about perseverance). Exploring outside of your own sphere really does increase your creativity and opens your mind to all sorts of new possibilities. Don’t be afraid to do something challenging – because if you can’t do it straight away, that’s no problem. It’s not that you’re not capable, it’s that you can’t do it YET.
  5. Allow yourself to learn from others. At work, we’re often caught in a hierarchy where we’re expected to be better at the job, the higher up we are – asking subordinates for advice often feels like losing face. But what if we were able to put aside that concept of leaders having inherent superiority? Appreciating the perspectives that others, at all levels, can bring to the table can help you to work more effectively in a team and come up with more creative solutions. A wise old boss of mine once told me to always recruit people to my team who were better than me. This is probably the best business advice I ever had.

These are strange times we are living through at the moment but all these massive upheavals we are experiencing could be the catalyst for some really exciting changes. Growth mindset could be the key that unlocks the next phase for individuals and for organisations. It’s time to start thinking differently…

Tess is a director of LAS. LAS helps people and organisations grow and evolve through custom digital learning experiences. Tess has a keen interest in the psychology and behaviours behind how people learn and holds a Masters degree in Organisational Behaviour.

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