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Failing Faster and Building a Growth Mindset Culture

Rebecca Clyde

By Rebecca Clyde

Mindset book cover

I’ve been familiar with Carol Dweck’s work for some time (I’m referring to her best-selling book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”), but it wasn’t until a recent visit to Los Angeles for a Vistage gathering that I gained a new perspective on this topic.

Dr. Eve Grodnitzky, author of “The Art + Science of Getting from Impasse to Insight” was the keynote speaker. She provided a slightly broader take on the “Mindset” concept: looking at mindset from an organizational culture perspective and exploring how, as leaders, we set the tone for a particular type of mindset within our organizations.

As organizations, we need to take stock of our existing culture and determine where we stand. Are we culturally more “fixed” or “growth” oriented? Here are a few easy ways to analyze where your organization stands:

Your organization has a “fixed” mindset culture if you see these behaviors:

  • Hiring and rewarding based only on intelligence and skills.
  • Feedback is feared.
  • Failure is punished.
  • Challenges are avoided.
  • The “easy” path is preferred.

On the other hand, your organization may be leaning toward a “growth” mindset if you see more of this behavior:

  • Challenges are welcomed.
  • Open-mindedness toward different perspectives.
  • Rewards systems based on effort, risk-taking (even failure), and learning.
  • Feedback is proactively sought and utilized for improvement.
"So why would it be important to move your organization from a “fixed” to a “growth” mindset? "

A growth-mindset organization is more flexible, adapting easily to changing environments, delivering creative solutions, attracting top performers and retaining high value customers. Moreover, “growth” mindset companies tend to attract “growth” mindset clients, which I think we can all agree, are a lot more interesting to work with than “fixed” mindset clients.

As leaders, one of the most difficult aspects to adjusting to a “growth” mindset culture is our perception of failure. To be truly growth-mindset oriented, we must welcome failure—no easy task.

Dr. Grodnitzky said it best: “Fail early, fail often, fail cheap.”  We must get comfortable with risk and failure to truly embrace a growth-mindset culture.

To make it easier, here are 3 things we can each do to step into a “growth” mindset:

  • Allocate budget and resources toward experimentation. Give teams the opportunity to fail, then provide key lessons learned to the team or client. When something goes wrong, don’t blame.
  • Document and share key learnings, then move on.
  • Seek candid feedback from customers and make a plan to act on their input.

Start using “growth” mindset language. Instead of telling someone they are “awesome” when they produce a great report, let them know specifically what they did (“Your report was clear and concise with helpful charts. I can tell you put a lot of time into it.”)