“The Power Of Yet” And The Growth Mindset

What skills and interests have you developed over the last year? Perhaps some that have laid dormant for many years, and perhaps some that are, in essence, brand new for you. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been tested in ways none of us could have ever expected. So many things that each of us thought were so important fell by the wayside as we each reconfigured our life to a new reality.

You may be familiar with Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck’s 1990 concept of the Fixed Mindset and the Growth Mindset. In a fixed mindset, someone believes their talents, skills, and “intelligence” (a term I use loosely – but that is a topic for another article) are pre-determined, fixed and unchangeable. In a growth mindset, someone believes that their talents, skills, and “intelligence” can be developed, and that feedback and failures offer opportunity and growth. As Prof. Dweck describes it, this is “The Power of Yet.” Over the last 30 years, the concept of a Growth Mindset has become somewhat of a buzz word in education and the business world. Even Sesame Street has embraced the theme of The Power of Yet. So this is by no means new, and may seem obvious to you.

In a 2016 follow-up article, Prof. Dweck raises some concerns about the use of her concepts. Organizations might espouse a growth mindset in a mission statement, she says, but unless this is backed up by implementing policies encouraging risk taking and innovation, it may amount only to lip service. Additionally, she says the ideas of a growth mindset are widely misunderstood and applied in unhelpful ways:

“People often confuse a growth mindset with being flexible or open-minded or with having a positive outlook – qualities they believe they’ve always had… I call this a false growth mindset. Everyone is actually a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience. A “pure” growth mindset doesn’t exist, which we have to acknowledge in order to attain the benefits we seek.” [emphasis added]

So, if we are each a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, what are the consequences of that? Where do we limit ourselves because we don’t see change as even being in the realm of possibility? What could be possible if we opened ourselves up to the potential failure of risk-taking? How could others’ feedback help us to grow and hone our skills and talents? Have you had an experience of doubting your skills but moving forward – and succeeding – because of someone else’s faith in you? If you’re a parent, perhaps one of your children has asked you to do something that you thought you couldn’t do, only to discover that… you can do it after all! So how does that help us in our teams this week?

This Week’s Tip:

You may see yourself as someone who lives in a “growth mindset.” Consider that there may be areas where you see yourself with a more “fixed mindset,” and work to explore that this week:

  1. Build awareness. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses is a great starting point pinpointing potential areas of growth. You may not be aware of your own limiting beliefs holding you back, or how you are perceived by others. Ask a variety of people around you (people you trust!) to give you honest feedback about how you come across and where you might be limiting yourself.
  2. Find a safe opportunity to “stretch”. Find a small project to intentionally develop a skill you think you have in short supply. Ideally, this wouldn’t be connected to work. Maybe this is an artistic project – drawing, painting, writing, building, playing an instrument… Don’t worry about the end result – just try something, intentionally work on building your skill, and see how it comes out!
  3. If appropriate, share with your team. Share your findings – and maybe the results of your artistic pursuits – with your team, and encourage them to do the same. Work on encouraging a learning culture and a culture of authentic feedback.
  4. Allow time for reflection. Both for you as an individual and as a team, allow time to look back, reflect, and learn from experiences within regular work hours.

Try this out this week and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group – we’d love to hear what you learn about yourself and others as you do!

Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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