Growth mindset
Growth mindset B+C LU

Growth mindset

Welcome to Badenoch + Clark's second installment in collaboration with Jill Saville.

A Tale of 2 Mindsets

When I was young my parents would tell me – and anyone who would listen – that I was ‘bright’. They were pleased when this seemed to be confirmed by the 11 plus IQ test around in the 1960s and I got into a grammar school.  Now you may think that I was guaranteed a ‘bright’ future but I went from 2nd in the top stream in my first year of ‘big school’ to 30th out of 31 in my final year at 18 years old. I was saved from the bottom spot only by a boy who was the troublemaker – now a very talented senior prosecutor with the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service)!

Why did that happen?  Well it may seem obvious to you - I didn’t work - but less obvious are the reasons why I didn’t work.

This became clear recently when I read the book MINDSET by Carol Dweke.  I had a fixed mindset.   I heard ‘be smart’, ‘don’t look as if you are making an effort’ and I believed that my IQ was fixed. In fact, Binet who developed the IQ test, never said that intelligence was fixed.]  Robert Sternberg, an education expert said that the major factor in whether people achieve expertise is not some fixed prior ability but purposeful engagement.

What Dweke said was that with a fixed mindset, receiving a C when used to an A could be a devastating ‘blow to my intelligence’. I thought I was not as smart as people said and stopped trying.  What would someone with a Growth mindset have thought?

  1. That they needed to work harder!

  2. That it was OK to be seen to make an effort.

  3. That it was OK to take on a challenge even at the risk of failure. 

I cannot do the book justice in one article so I may well come back to it, but here are just a few occasions that a Growth Mindset will help you.


1 Looking for work 

Remember all the days you wished you had time to do something different or learn something new? Well now is that chance! I was recently working with a fabulous executive who had decided to move on – her values no longer matched with the company’s. Her mindset was so refreshing as she saw her next move as a challenge; a wonderful opportunity and full of possibilities!!  As you can imagine, these thoughts set her on a learning quest.

The best recruiters are looking for a good attitude – ‘how can I?’ instead of ‘I can’t’ - which is really visible when you spend any time ‘in between’ jobs. 

2  Climbing the ladder

Don’t play the comparison game. Looking around at other people’s success and believing that they are ahead because of some special talent is not helpful. Realise instead that everyone develops and achieves due to the effort they put in. You can do the same. Learn to actively seek feedback and accept it graciously because those who respond well to feedback are the ones who will progress. Jack Welch chose executives on the basis of their capacity for growth and not fixed abilities.

3  At the top of your game

Do you have CEO disease as Dweke calls it? Do you ‘rest on your laurels’ and want to be seen as perfect? For example, if your company has a great product and brings it out year after year with superficial changes (look at Lacocca at Chrysler) you end up with something no one wants.

Leaders, therefore, face a dilemma – do they confront their shortcomings and grow or create a world where they have none? If they surround themselves with worshippers and exile their critics they can become out of touch – stuck - a non-learner.  The top CEOs are lifelong learners.

It is worth considering the people who work with such a leader.  If ‘people do what people see’ as John Maxwell is fond of saying, then this is a sure way to stagnation of thought and the organisation.

Finally, I will leave you with a quote from the book.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

What’s next for you?

After 40 years of intensive learning … my major conclusion is:

What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning.’       

Benjamin Bloom