How does a Growth Mindset transform your organization’s success?

In the last two decades, I have mentored many team members, some of them were afraid to take new challenges.  They kept trying to prove themselves by demonstrating their existing skills and not performing to their potential but trying to just perform better than the others exhibiting a fixed mindset. The objective was not only to improve their performance but also to gear them for new challenges. With coaching, mentorship and their dedication to learning they have transformed into agrowth mindset, where they are now continuously improving themselves by developing their existing skills and acquiring new ones and performing better than they did before.

So, what is ‘growth mindset’?

To understand the ‘growth mindset’, let’s first look at what constitutes a ‘fixed mindset’ .  A ‘fixed mindset’ is when people believe that their basic qualities like intelligence or talent are given traits. They also believe that possessing a certain talent is the key to effortless success.

On the other hand, people having a ‘growth mindset’ believe that even basic talents and abilities can be developed over time with experience, training, coaching and mentorship. They’re not always worried about how smart they are, and how they’ll look like, when they make mistakes. Rather they are more than eager to learn from their mistakes and keep on improving.

Fixed vs Growth Mindset
Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset

Carol Dweck, is a psychology professor currently with Stanford University, who is known for her work on the mindset of psychological traits. She refers to people who look at talent as a quality that they either possess or need as having a fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset in contrast, enjoy challenges, make every effort to learn and constantly see potential to develop new skills.

Dweck has created a framework based on her research on growth mindset which has had a significant impact on the transformation of many organizations’ success.

In her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, Dweck shows how success in school, workplace, sports and almost any career can be significantly influenced by how you think about your talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset believe that abilities are fixed, have a lesser probability to prosper than those with a growth mindset. They believe that abilities can be developed. In this book, she uncovers how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to nurture outstanding achievement.


In the new edition of this book

Dweck offers insights into her now popular and broadly adopted concept. She presents a phenomenon she calls a false growth mindset and guides people toward adopting a richer, truer growth mindset. She also magnifies the mindset concept beyond the individual, applying it to groups and organizations. With the right mindset, you can persuade those you lead or teach to transform their lives and your own.

Dweck points to GE’s Jack Welch as an exemplary growth mindset CEO, who hired according to ‘runway’ not pedigree, preferred Military Veterans and Big 10 Graduates to Ivy League Graduates and spent thousands of hours coaching and grooming employees on his executive team.

Why fostering a growth mindset in organizations matters

Dweck along with her colleagues, Mary Murphy, Jennifer Chatman and Laura Kray in partnership with Senn Delaney, a Heidrick & Struggles company, conducted a two-year study of several Fortune 1000 companies to analyze the impact of an entire organization’s mindset.

The finding shows that organizations with a growth mindset culture have employees with greater trust, a stronger commitment to the company, a stronger commitment to risk-taking and a more positive view of employees, by their line managers.

Senn Delaney Study

Source: Senn Delaney Study

Leveraging ‘growth mindset’ in transforming large organizations

The ‘growth mindset’ has been the most sought-after approach since the nineties and the noughties and has been a catalyst in transforming various large organizations to mention a few – IBM in 1993, Xerox in 2001 and most recently Microsoft in 2014.

The IBM Story

In 1993, when Lou Gerstner became the CEO of IBM, he decided to leverage the growth mindset to turn around the organization. When he took over, the organization was in deep trouble. It was scattered with ‘fixed mindset’ leaders, motivated by ego, power and the desire for control. They were hesitant about acknowledging their weaknesses, and the businesses started to go downhill.

Gerstner, in his book “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?”, mentions in sarcasm that his predecessors believed they were superior to both their colleagues and clients. Gerstner adopted the growth mindset and built a corporate culture that respected teamwork, accountability and service excellence. This approach and attitude enabled him to transform IBM.

Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? encapsulates Lou Gerstner’s remarkable business journey, bringing IBM back from the verge of insolvency to lead the computer industry once again.

The Xerox Story

Similarly, when Anne Mulcahy who was a Xerox veteran, became the CEO of the company in 2001, Xerox had become a debt-ridden and teetering on the verge of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, She used her growth mindset to turnaround the company.

“I think I am more motivated by fear of failure than a desire to succeed,” Anne admitted. “My experience at Xerox has taught me that crisis is a very powerful motivator. It forces you to make choices that you probably wouldn’t have made otherwise. It intensifies your focus, your competitiveness, your relentless desire to attain best-in-class status. I want to do everything I can to make sure that we don’t lose that, now that we’re back on track.”

The Microsoft Story

Likewise, in 2014 when Satya Nadella became the CEO of Microsoft, he inherited an organization moving toward irrelevance, afflicted by internal fights and inertia. Earlier that year he had read the book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, from which he adapted the idea of ‘growth mindset’ and encouraged his employees to shift from Microsoft’s existing ‘know-it-all’ culture to embrace a ‘learn-it-all’ curiosity.

How Microsoft Uses a Growth Mindset to Develop Leaders

“How Microsoft Uses a Growth Mindset to Develop Leaders” by Carol Dweck and Kathleen Hogan talks about research which shows that managers see much more leadership potential in their employees when their companies adopt a growth mindset.

They believe that talent can be developed in each employee, not seen as a fixed, natural skill that some have, and others do not. And what are those organizations doing to nurture their talent? So, it looks at Microsoft, which is proactively fostering a growth mindset culture and, in that perspective, altering its approach to development. As an outcome, earlier unidentified, but talented, leaders are growing to levels they might not have, in the conventional development model.

How Growth Mindset can fuel Start-up growth

The Growth Mindset has not only helped the large organization in transforming their businesses but has helped many Start-ups grow their business. One such example is DIY Media Group and its group companies like BookBaby, Disc Makers and Merchly

Here’s “Why Start-ups Want Their Employees To Have A Growth Mindset?” When you start your business behind an idea, you have the vision to build something that will make an impact in the lives of your future customers. You set a goal of creating financial reassurance to encounter real freedom. You are chasing a dream of building a business and life that many people will never think of or even relate to.

When you start to build the start-up, you will have to deal with many moving parts. It becomes much more difficult when you start hiring people. Your team starts depending on you to make the right decision.

You know that you have the right mindset and you keep improving with every mistake you make. You keep developing your skills and perform better than you did before. But how can you diffuse the same mindset in your employees who might be concerned about their job security? That is why it is important to have employees with a growth mindset.

Employees with a growth mindset can be enabled to become successful sellers, by training them with the sales methodology most suitable for your business.

Wondering how to build a culture of Growth Mindset and curiosity in your organization?

It must flow from the top. So whether you are a founder of a start-up or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you must first imbibe the ‘growth mindset’ yourself and then percolate it to the leaders and the entire organization.

The following three skills are your first step towards the journey of building a growth mindset organization:

  • Skill 1: Be conducive to learning.
  • Skill 2: Be willing to play varied mentoring roles.
  • Skill 3: Promote learning exchanges.

For example, Microsoft now requires a specific mindset for approaching problems and recovering from setbacks and hence has asked its leaders to follow a new mental approach grounded in the above 3 skills.

You can learn more about Microsoft’s newly rolled out management framework for its leaders, which centers around a psychological insight of ‘growth mindset’.                                     

Humor CEOs

Source: Dilbert by Scott Adams

The message from the top

This is of utmost importance, which must be altered to communicate that:

  • We value passion, dedication, growth and learning.
  • We don’t expect that you know everything, but we expect that you are here and ready to learn.
  • We expect you to go beyond your comfort zone and take real risks.
  • We value process and we reward taking on bold but realistic challenges, we reward pursuing them relentlessly.
  • We reward teamwork and even if the team is not successful, we reward that you have engaged in it wholeheartedly

In my experience, Vision, Mission, Purpose and Values are becoming more and more relevant for the employees.  

In today’s fast-changing world where new challenges necessitate innovative thinking and problem-solving approach, we need to focus on learning, open communication and sharing of knowledge which is the beginning of your journey for a ‘growth mindset’ organization.

To learn more about how you can embark on the journey of ‘growth mindset’ for your organization –  Connect with Me TODAY!

Neelesh Kumar Rastogi

3 Responses

  1. Hey Neelesh, what skill you have, top sales methodology, deep dive technology conversation, business discovery, and now growth mindset. You should be strategy for Fortune 500 companies.

  2. Very informative, amazing to learn how leaders of such large organization like IBM, Xerox and Microsoft transformed their organization by changing the mindset.

    Can you do a follow-up on how new managers can benefit from this concept. Eager to learn.

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