The participants in the recent CAES Cross-Cultural Survey were offered a ‘bonus’ questionnaire that provided them with feedback regarding where they were positioned on a growth versus fixed mindset scale. The cumulative results, listed below, were quite interesting.
High Growth Mindset 1.0
Medium Growth Mindset 30.6
Low Growth Mindset 52.1
Minimal Growth Mindset 16.3
Minimal Fixed Mindset 0.0
Low Fixed Mindset 0.0
Medium Fixed Mindset 0.0
High Fixed Mindset 0.0
Note 1: Based on these results, we need to ask, “Is there a correlation between having a growth mindset and participation in this exercise”? None of the survey subjects were told what this assessment was about, simply that it was a bonus offered because of their participation in the CAES survey, and that it may provide them with helpful information about themselves. Since there were no participants that scored within the fixed mindset domain, one could wonder whether people with a growth mindset are more likely to participate in self-evaluative performance enhancement exercises like this one. You can be the judge on that.
When we look at mindsets, the objective, whether for individual, team, managerial, leadership and organizational performance, should be to help people to move to higher levels on the scale with the optimum level being a high growth mindset. People should remember that, whatever your personal score, you should always strive to find ways to move up the scale – doing so will help to enhance your performance and, as a result, also your career success.
Comparing the Growth Mindset to the Fixed Mindset
People who have a fixed mindset tend to believe that intelligence, and performance capabilities, are primarily static talents that people are born with and that cannot really be changed. They see themselves as being ‘just the way they are’. Since fixed mindset people believe that their talent is ‘fixed’, they will have a natural tendency to resist change and they will be more focused on trying to appear to be as capable as possible rather than to actually be as capable as possible. They sometimes will view the exertion of greater effort as an indication that they lack talent, and they will tend to avoid challenges and obstacles simply because, should they fail, it will give people the impression that they are untalented. As well, they often see the success of other people as a threat simply because, when other people are successful, they might be viewed as being the most talented.
In response to personal criticism, people with a fixed mindset will maintain a self-defeating defensiveness wherein they will either not recognize that they have made mistakes, or they will not admit that they erred and then knowingly find ways to justify their poor performance. In doing so they can rationalize their resistance to change, their disinterest in learning and personal growth, and their reluctance to exert the effort that is necessary to achieve suitable performance. Fixed mindset people’s deterministic view of the world will cause them to stay in their ‘comfort zone’ and to focus only on what they know they can do well, which as a result will stagnate their growth and development. As a result they may ‘plateau’ early in their career and then fail to further grow and to achieve their real full potential over the long term. This underdeveloped potential, and growth-resistance, does not only affect their personal performance, but will also impact the performance and development of the people around them by limiting cooperation, collaboration, and the desire for higher performance outcomes.
People who have a growth mindset believe that intelligence and performance capabilities can be developed. This belief supports their ongoing desire to change, learn and to improve their performance via the development of new useful skills (both technical and non-technical). Growth-oriented people see challenges and obstacles as opportunities to learn and develop. They believe that there is a causal relationship between effort and performance, and that effort is a normal component of work which is necessary for personal growth and achievement. Growth mindset people are more likely to welcome the changes that are required to overcome any challenges and obstacles that occur and, should they fail in an activity, they see this failure as both a learning opportunity and as an indication that more effort (or different, better strategies) are required.
People with a growth mindset, due to their eagerness to learn, have a positive response to criticism, and they are open to feedback and suggestions. Not threatened, but learning from the success of others, they gain inspiration from these experiences, and they subsequently become motivated to change their thinking and behaviours accordingly. Thriving in growth-oriented environments, these people actively share advice and feedback with their co-workers which will not only stimulate their own personal growth and development, but also that of the people around them. As a result everyone has a tendency to reach higher performance levels, and are therefore more likely to develop to their full potential.
To people who already have a growth mindset much of this information may seem obvious, but they too will understand the need to constantly improve – and that nobody is perfect. For people with fixed mindsets, the good news is that mindsets can be changed. The first step is creating self-awareness, and then to develop a plan to move towards more growth-oriented thinking. In both cases, the benefits of moving to higher levels of a growth mindset will be observed in a greater commitment to change, expanded learning and development, and the exertion of the effort that is necessary for enhanced performance. Growth mindsets are contagious. By starting with your own growth enhancement, you will then better influence your teams, departments and overall organizations to become growth-oriented as well. Doing so will not only help you to reach your full potential, but will also encourage the people around you to reach their full potential.