By Greg Nathan posted February 6, 2024

There's nothing new in the ideal of striving to be the best we can be. The most popular iteration of this concept is the Growth Mindset, coined by educational psychologist, Professor Carol Dweck. 

Carol Dweck spent 30 years studying why many highly talented children fail to live up to their potential, while others who are not as smart or gifted, flourish. She used the terms Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset to describe two different approaches to dealing with opportunity and adversity.

She found that children with a Growth Mindset were happy to put in the work and figure things out through trial and error, while those with a Fixed Mindset were more concerned about looking good and so avoided situations that may involve risk or failure. The business world has since adopted her research and concepts.

One of our cultural values at FRI is to have a "Yen for knowledge", which means constantly studying and seeking feedback on how to improve. In this spirit, we share below seven strategies that distinguish a Growth Mindset from a Fixed Mindset in business and life.

#1. Embrace the power of yet. Whenever you fail to accomplish what you are working on, add the word "yet" at the end. For instance, instead of concluding you can't do something, or you haven't hit a goal, say I can't do it yet, or we haven't achieved this yet.

#2. Strive to improve, not prove. When we are sincerely trying to improve we are likely to be open, curious, and humble - perfect conditions for learning and growth. When we try to prove ourselves we become blinded by ego and the need to look good  - perfect conditions for being closed and defensiveness (the Fixed Mindset).

#3. Ask for feedback rather than waiting for it. When we ask others how we can do things better, we take control of our learning and are more likely to experience the feedback as useful and even pleasurable. When we wait for someone to give us feedback we are more likely to experience this as a threat or as criticism.

#4. Value mistakes as a cost of progress. In 1920, Theodore Roosevelt said, "The man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything". About 100 years later Mark Zuckerberg said, "If you never break anything, you're probably not moving fast enough." In other words, let's recognise (and perhaps even celebrate) mistakes as a natural part of progress and innovation. Of course, we need to ask what we have learned and try not to repeat it.

#5. Treat discomfort as a sign you're getting stronger. There is a myth that a happy life is a pleasurable and comfortable life. In truth, a happy life comes from engaging with meaningful challenges that strengthen our skills and capacities. Psychologists have found that top performers in all fields deliberately put themselves in uncomfortable situations that force them to grow. They also enjoy the experience because they know it is making them stronger.

#6. Seek out people who are better than you. A person with a Fixed Mindset will be uncomfortable and jealous around others who are better than they are because this might make them look bad. However, the person with a Growth Mindset actively seeks out people who are better than they are. They ask them questions, study their methods, and celebrate their successes.

#7. Focus on the process more than the outcome. At FRI we have another value called "Adopt the artisan's eye" which is all about bringing excellence and beauty to every detail of our work. While it's great to strive for lofty goals, we also want to enjoy the journey and the sense of calm and pride that comes when we immerse ourselves totally in a task.

Many businesses are trying to embed the Growth Mindset into their cultures by practising these and other strategies. To see Carol Dweck explaining the Growth Mindset and the Power of Yet, check out this beautiful 9 minute video. If you have kids, do yourself a favour and watch this.

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