“For some people, failure is the end of the world—but for others, it’s this exciting new opportunity.”
Can you relate to either of these descriptions? If the latter part of that sentence sums you up, then you have what Dr Carol Dweck terms a growth mindset.
Her theory of the growth mindset was originally formulated from her research into how children cope with failure. But, more and more, the theory is being used by businesses to develop resilience in their workforce and achieve success.
So, how important is this growth mindset for business success? And how can we develop one ourselves?
Someone with a fixed mindset believes that a person either has a talent or they don’t. Someone with a fixed mindset might believe that they are no good with numbers, for example. As a result, they will avoid activities that involve sums or mental arithmetic.
By contrast, someone with a growth mindset relishes a challenge. They love to learn new things, develop new skills, and put their problem-solving ability to the test. These are the people who say “I don’t know how to do that yet” or “I’ll figure that out eventually”.
By boiling the theory down to its bare bones, it becomes clear that one approach is far more conducive to business success than the other.
In more recent years, Dweck and her colleagues have expanded their research and applied it to organisations. How does a growth mindset impact an organisation and its success?
The findings were staggering. Focused more on culture than profits, a growth mindset within an organisation was beneficial for all employees. According to Dweck’s research, an employee in an organisation that fosters growth mindset compared to a fixed mindset is:
47% more likely to view their colleagues as trustworthy
34% more likely to feel committed to the company or feel a strong sense of ownership
49% more likely to agree that their company is innovative.
Of course, just because profits aren’t mentioned in these stats does not mean they are unaffected. Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team explores this in detail. Absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and inattention to results are all shown to sabotage business success.
However, when these dysfunctions are reversed, a company culture is created that leads to great success. In other words: get your team’s mindset right, and there’s not much you can’t achieve.
The million dollar question, then, is how to cultivate the growth mindset in your team.
The first thing you can do is to celebrate the learnings that come about through failure or imperfection. If something didn’t quite go to plan on a project, what could be learned from that to improve next time? How could the team salvage the project and still make a success from it? A fixed mindset makes mistakes seem frustrating; a growth mindset allows the individual to accept failure as part of personal development.
This is all particularly applicable to your business’ marketing strategy. The process of promoting your products or services - whether through social media, video content, blogs, or email newsletters - should be informed by a mindset that aims to keep the elements that work and innovate around the ones that don’t. Use analytics tools to look at how your content is performing and, instead of just celebrating your successes, try to think about what you can learn from that social media post that generated the least engagement, or from that video that has the lowest average watch time.
The emphasis on learning and developing that characterises a growth mindset means that processes are much more important than outcomes. Following processes allows individuals to hone their skill in the delivery of the product or service. Therefore, it’s important that the entire company buys into the importance of having accurate processes for everything you do.
This focus means team members are more likely to think more objectively about failure. For example, if a target was missed but the process was followed correctly, should the process be amended? Or perhaps the team delivering it requires more support or training? Whatever the case may be, help your team to view these challenges as an opportunity to learn instead of evidence of something they’re not capable of.
Setting personal development goals is another useful exercise for cultivating a growth mindset. Examining an individual’s weaknesses and planning out small steps to take to improve their skill or expertise is a growth mindset approach. Make this a monthly or quarterly task, and the mindset will become a habit.
Ultimately, mindset is not something that can be cultivated once and effortlessly maintained. Maintaining a growth mindset requires continual work and focus. But if you can take the time to do this, the rewards will speak for themselves.