“It is easy for me to go outside my comfort zone,” claimed 57% of participants (about 120 HR professionals) polled during the MERIT webinar “Leveraging the Power of Growth Mindsets.”
However, when asked about the company they work for, 45% of respondents said that it has a fixed mindset culture, while only 41% thought that their organisation has a growth mindset.
This mismatch points to a crucial problem for HR professionals: how to foster a company culture dedicated to learning and growth.
The number one reason webinar participants cited for their interest in a growth mindset was digital transformation. This is in line with findings in the NeuroLeadership Institute’s 2018 “Idea Report: Growth Mindset Culture,” which shows that ongoing digital disruption is making growth mindsets a necessity for individuals as well as businesses.
Go agile or get stuck
The webinar was hosted by Lisa Danels, who has occupied key talent management, learning, and development roles at American Express, Chase Manhattan Bank, Philips, Pfizer, MetLife, and Novartis. Danels outlined the challenges faced by organisations that want to adopt a growth mindset and thus become more agile.
Today, it is only agility, Danels stressed, that can keep a company’s competitive edge: if an organisation is stuck in a fixed, hierarchical structure, it risks being outsmarted by a rising competitor.
As individuals, we can learn to get outside of our comfort zones, if we aren’t doing that already. In a large organisation, however, complexity increases exponentially and achieving a growth mindset is an ongoing task. Danels emphasised that the first challenge for any organisation ready to transform itself is getting everyone on board.
Growth mindset and the science behind it
In the first part of the webinar, Danels provided a deeper understanding of what a growth mindset means, as well as the neurological research backing it.
One way to define this critical skill is the willingness “to be uncomfortable over and over again,” as Erika Andersen puts it in her book Be Bad First: Get Good at Things Fast to Stay Ready for the Future. This means to “continually challenge your own preference for being good at things, for being competent” and to embrace a beginner’s mind instead of sticking with what you know.
Danels explained why such a mindset does not come naturally: it goes against some of our most innate, primal instincts, so a conscious, wilful re-wiring of the mind is necessary to accept higher levels of discomfort. Doing so is important both to organisations and to individuals, however, as only with a growth mindset can we learn from our mistakes, accept and implement feedback, and work effectively in a changing environment.
Every person stands somewhere on a continuum between a growth and fixed mindset, and further, we may have different mindsets in different areas of our lives. For example, someone who is already willing to take on high-risk projects at work may be resistant to learning foreign languages. The good news is that, as Carol Dweck’s research at Stanford University shows, a fixed mindset can be transformed into a growth mindset – and the same goes for companies.
Starting the transformation
In the second part of the webinar, Danels discussed two case studies of companies that transformed by implementing a growth mindset, as well as specific strategies to achieve that in your own company. She suggested interventions and learning programmes that are particularly suited to the leadership or team levels.
Danels also explained why, as research from Columbia University shows, top-level management has the greatest difficulty in adopting a growth mindset, even though agile leadership is crucial for the company-wide transformation to work.
Openness to growth is critical at the team level, too. Danels described in detail the features of fixed mindset teams and argued that even if a fixed mindset feels “comfortable” and “safe,” in the long run, it is anything but – in fact, it can cost us dearly.
In the webinar, Danels revealed the kinds of company initiatives that can educate employees and ensure a growth mindset culture takes hold in the long run. Going further, she argued that traditional talent acquisition and assessment practices may be hindering growth, and that our entire philosophy about recruitment and metrics has to change. Danels outlined what is necessary to develop a long-term agility strategy.
In case all this sounds overwhelming, Danels also reminded us of the 80/20 rule. “You can’t get rid of fear, but you can master it,” she said. You can aim to push yourself (or your organisation) just 20% of the time, and still stay in your comfort zone 80% of the time. What would that 20% be for you? What bold challenges would you set for yourself or your company?
Take a deep dive into "Leveraging the Power of Growth Mindsets" with the full webinar recording.
By Ani Kodjabasheva