I read education researcher Carol Dweck’s book on Mindset over the break and the message is intriguing – our mindsets are self-fulfilling prophecies. If I have a “growth mindset”, I believe that I have the capacity to learn and grow and develop, so I will look for every opportunity to do so. If, on the other hand I have a “fixed mindset”, I believe that I have a fixed amount of intelligence, social skills, street smarts, influence. “I’ve either got it or I haven’t”, so I will give up on new skills if I don’t learn them quickly and easily.
This solves a riddle I have noticed in my workshops, where those who are good at something, often want to learn more, while those who aren’t skilled often spend much of their time telling me how they can’t change and how what I am explaining won’t work for them, or it didn’t work the first time they tried it. This has been a tragedy because what I (Sharon) am very good at is breaking down managerial and social skills into their components so that they can be learned and applied and equally Paul is great at explaining how people can organise their electronic workspaces with practical examples that can be applied immediately.
Now it makes sense, if clients have a fixed mindset and have decided they are not good at the skillset, then the conversation in their head will constantly revert back to “what’s the point trying to learn something that I’m not good at because if I was good at it I would be able to do it already?” In fact this little phrase “what’s the point?” is my hint that I am dealing with someone who has a fixed mindset.
Dweck’s book is aimed mostly at teachers and parents and it spreads the good news that we can grow fixed mindsets into growth mindsets. A number of researchers, including Australian Robert Wood and Americans Peter Heslin and colleagues have taken her theories and applied them to management and particularly to performance management and appraisals.
Next week we will discuss how you can grow a mindset in yourself and others. In the meantime, make a list of at least 10 things you have learned to do well and put an asterisk beside any of the items where you remember a time when you had no skill in that area and it was frustrating (compared to other things on the list you learned easily and quickly).