Three common misconceptions about Dr. Dweck’s growth mindset

Recent advances in neuroscience have shown us that the brain is far more malleable than we ever knew. Research on brain plasticity has shown how connectivity between neurons can change with experience and refering to the article here, we look at three common misconceptions about Dr. Dweck’s growth mindset. [ . . . ]

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Recent advances in neuroscience have shown us that the brain is far more malleable than we ever knew. Research on brain plasticity has shown how connectivity between neurons can change with experience and refering to the article here, we look at three common misconceptions about Dr. Dweck’s growth mindset.

At the same time as these neuroscientific discoveries were carried, more and more scientist and researchers started to better understand the link between mindsets and achievement. This was particularly the case of Carol Dweck, the Lewis & Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Her theory is that we can change a person mindset from fixed to growth and that when we do so it leads to greater achievement. Of course, the “growth mindset” soon became a buzzword in the business word. That is why MENA-Forum published a piece on the subject (Dr. Dweck’s growth mindset explained, Mar 31, 2017). Too often unfortunately the growth mindset concept is misunderstood by companies and hence misused. Dr. Dweck revisited three common misconceptions about the concept in this Harvard Business Review piece. Here is an excerpt of her article:

  1. “I already have it, and I always have. People often confuse a growth mindset with being flexible or open-minded or with having a positive outlook — qualities they believe they’ve simply always had. My colleagues and 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.
  2. A growth mindset is just about praising and rewarding effort. This isn’t true for students in schools, and it’s not true for employees in organizations. In both settings, outcomes matter. Unproductive effort is never a good thing. It’s critical to reward not just effort but learning and progress, and to emphasize the processes that yield these things, such as seeking help from others, trying new strategies, and capitalizing on setbacks to move forward effectively. In all of our research, the outcome — the bottom line — follows from deeply engaging in these processes.
  3. Just espouse a growth mindset, and good things will happen. Mission statements are wonderful things. You can’t argue with lofty values like growth, empowerment, or innovation. But what do they mean to employees if the company doesn’t implement policies that make them real and attainable? They just amount to lip service. Organizations that embody a growth mindset encourage appropriate risk-taking, knowing that some risks won’t work out. They reward employees for important and useful lessons learned, even if a project does not meet its original goals. They support collaboration across organizational boundaries rather than competition among employees or units. They are committed to the growth of every member, not just in words but in deeds, such as broadly available development and advancement opportunities. And they continually reinforce growth mindset values with concrete policies.”

Dr. Dweck warns us about these misconceptions, but also about “fixed-mindset triggers”. They will be particularly present when “we face challenges, receive criticism, or fare poorly compared with others”. In those cases we could quickly be defensive or insecure, which “inhibits growth”. In addition, environments can limit our growth mindset thinking and behavior. When companies play “the talent game” they undermine the attitudes that will help people grow their mindset, such as sharing information, collaborating, innovating, seeking feedback, or admitting errors.

Hence for Dr. Dweck, “to remain in a growth zone, we must identify and work with these triggers. Many managers and executives have benefited from learning to recognize when their fixed-mindset “persona” shows up and what it says to make them feel threatened or defensive. Most importantly, over time they have learned to talk back to it, persuading it to collaborate with them as they pursue challenging goals.”

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