Fixed or growth?

Carol Dweck’s work on fixed and growth mindsets offers some very useful insights into how our mindset can play a really significant part in what we achieve – or don’t – and often without us even being aware of it. Dweck has expanded her original work – which looked primarily at individuals – to look at the role of mindset at the organisational level and how this can impact on performance. Unsurprisingly she concludes that whether an organisation has a fixed or growth mindset culture does make a difference; she refers to ‘genius’ or ‘development’ cultures with talent being worshipped in the former at the expense of effort and continuous improvement which are valued by the development culture. Given that the role of organisational culture is, in part, to perpetuate itself, it is clear that breaking an organisation out of a fixed mindset is a considerable task. This can be exasperated by learned helplessness which can permeate an organisation with a sense of ‘yes, but there’s nothing we can do about it’ when it comes to change and improvement so that in time people don’t even notice opportunities for respite or change.

Getting everyone in the organisation to understand neuroplasticity will be a great first step to changing a fixed mindset culture and informing people about the power of habit and the effort required to consciously change habits will also help. This needs to happen at an individual level but the organisations cultural artefacts such as policies, processes, procedures, politics etc. also need to be changed so that they no longer reinforce a fixed mindset but instead promote a growth culture. The nature of the growth focus is also important i.e. an emphasis on continuously growing bigger may mean more of the same and ‘sweating the assets’ as much as possible, whereas an emphasis on growing better focuses on continuous improvement and development – which is likely to lead to growth.