A continuous learning culture and deep reserves of resilience and flexibility have been assets in these times of continuous change. Another asset that learning leaders can both call upon and foster is a growth mindset.

Misconceptions abound as to what a growth mindset is as well as why it’s important for individuals and organizational cultures to foster a growth mindset. Let’s clear up some of those here.

Effort isn’t enough

A growth mindset is a belief that talent can be developed, rather than regarding it as an innate “gift.” This concept, originated by psychologist Carol Dweck, coexists with a “fixed” mindset. A person or organization with a growth mindset puts effort and resources into learning and developing, whereas an organization with a fixed mindset might not value developing employees as highly.

According to Dweck, though, elements of both exist in all of us: “Everyone is actually a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, and that mixture continually evolves with experience.”

A common misconception about a growth mindset is that it places value only on effort, without regard for results. Effort matters; it’s how we learn and grow. And a company with a growth mindset will encourage trying new things and constant learning.

But outcomes matter as well. Dweck emphasizes that rewarding progress and valuing processes that lead to learning and improved outcomes exemplify a growth mindset—not simply rewarding effort.

An organization with a growth mindset values and fosters collaboration, innovation, and appropriate risk-taking, according to Dweck, appreciating the lessons learned even when the risk fails.

Growth mindset & continuous learning

As workplaces constantly adapt to new technologies and tools, incorporate automation, and adjust to global economic changes, continuous learning is a necessity. A culture of continuous learning easily thrives in an organization with a growth mindset—with all of the benefits a learning culture brings.

A learner with a growth mindset believes they are capable of learning new skills and tackling challenges. This learner is more likely to persevere, work through challenges, exhibit creative problem-solving, and be eager to learn new skills than a learner who believes they’re not capable or who fears failing. These learners—and workers—are better equipped to take automation, AI, and other changes in stride and flourish—ensuring the organization remains future-ready.

Leaders set the tone

Another misconception is that a person or organization either has a growth mindset or does not. This is an error born of a fixed mindset! It's possible to develop a growth mindset, and learning leaders can play a key role. Simply saying you believe in a growth mindset is also not enough; leaders have to initiate policies that enable learners to practice the values of a growth mindset.

Organizations—and learning leaders—can support learners in developing a growth mindset by offering coaching, training, and other learning opportunities. They can ensure that project debriefs focus on process and lessons learned, not only on assessing what worked and what “failed,” and certainly not on assigning blame for errors or sub-optimal results.

Fostering collaboration is a hallmark of a corporate culture that supports a growth mindset, as opposed to endorsing competition among employees: The worst examples include companies that use “forced attrition” policies such as routinely dismissing the bottom 10% of performers, or companies that are rigidly hierarchical and formal. In these organizations, employees are focused on not breaking the rules or fearful of not making the grade, and they are hesitant to try anything risky—or innovative.

Instead, collaboration should be rewarded and high-performers incentivized to coach, mentor, and manage new or struggling employees. Growth-mindset managers provide effective feedback and support for employees who are taking on challenges and learning new skills. Rather than punishing mistakes, growth-focused leaders encourage self-reflection and learning from setbacks. This culture pays off in employees who feel more committed to their work and to the company; trust their colleagues more; and see the company as innovative.

According to Dweck’s research, a growth mindset culture might even lead managers to see untapped potential in all their employees—rather than focusing their attention and lavishing praise only on a few “stars.”

Jump-start your growth as a leader

Are you seeking the strategies and skills required to navigate the needs of today’s ever-changing workplace? Are you an experienced or aspiring leader looking for a community to connect with to explore today’s biggest learning leadership challenges?

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