How to Leverage Growth Mindset Activities in the Midst of Change

By DeVry University

The world is always changing – this fact is clearer than ever in 2020. From the way we communicate to the ways we work, there are factors driving disruption in our lives on a regular basis. And while it may seem challenging at first, this can often be the perfect environment for leveraging growth mindset activities that can help you thrive in the midst of change.

Business is always changing.

According to data presented by Bersin by Deloitte, there are a number of forces that have and will change the way you work. Skills that you could once lean on for the entirety of your work life suddenly now have an average applicability of six years.

The following seven factors have historically been considered "powerful disruptors":

  • Technology.
  • Data.
  • Diversity/generational change.
  • Artificial intelligence, robotics, cognitive computing.
  • Automation.
  • "Contingent" (gig) work.

These factors lead to the question: what is the key to success in an environment in which the only sure thing is change?

The answer is something that impacts how people think, learn and behave: their mindset. Especially during times of uncertainty, having a growth-oriented perspective is critical.

What is a Growth Mindset?

Hard work is undoubtedly an important factor in success, but it can be even more powerful when it aligns with how you think. Psychologist Carol Dweck coined the term "Growth Mindset," which is the belief that you can (and have the willingness to) continually change and adapt the way you work.

Dr. Dweck explained a growth mindset vs fixed mindset in Harvard Business Review: "Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts). This is because they worry less about looking smart and they put more energy into learning." Essentially, the growth mindset embraces the idea that you must work hard and continually learn in order to be successful. Working toward an achievement is gratifying on its own because you're trying your best, solving challenges and moving forward. People who embrace this way of thinking tend to take bigger risks and thrive in challenging situations.

In contrast to a growth mindset, a fixed mindset focuses on a set of existing talents, abilities and achievements. It stipulates that we have innate intelligence, talents and abilities that we cannot change – and that these traits are not learned. Those with a fixed mindset tend to resist risks and on-going training, only seeking out opportunities that speak to their existing abilities.

Why is a Growth Mindset important?

Choosing to have a growth mindset vs fixed mindset can help you pursue long-term personal and professional growth. Where a fixed mindset can make you feel like you are in a "talent race" with those around you, a growth mindset can motivate you to collaborate in order to achieve success. A growth mindset can also lead to more open-mindedness, which fosters the ability to learn new things. Like Dr. Dweck explained, people with a growth mindset tend to take on challenges and stretch themselves to accommodate them, often committing to lifelong learning that supports their success.

The Growth Mindset at work.

According to Carol Dweck's seminal work, when companies embrace growth mindsets, employees tend to feel:

  • Empowered.
  • Committed.
  • Collaborative.
  • Supported.
  • Innovative.

When companies adopt fixed mindset approaches, however, employees can feel insecure and caught up in cheating and deception. Because a fixed mindset is based in achievement and talent, companies with this kind of environment tend to discourage openness and instead promote competition within the workforce.

Cultivating a culture that celebrates collaboration, allows for errors and encourages constructive feedback as learning opportunities thus promoting a company-wide growth mindset.

Growth Mindset activities for individuals.

Here are some growth mindset examples you can put into practice today:

  • Praise the process, not the ability. When engaging in self-talk, focus on the process and the hard work that went into it, not your intelligence or ability. This might look like, "Great job trying a new strategy to solve this problem" rather than "You are really smart if you are able to do this" (or, on the flip side, "you are not smart if you are not able to do this").

  • Set a goal for learning new things. Those with fixed mindsets do not tend to value learning new skills. To cultivate a growth mindset, commit to learning something new once a month, once per quarter or at whatever cadence works best for you.

  • Reflect and remember what you have learned. Reflect on how much you have learned since your academic journey or career began. Remembering how far you have come and how much you have learned can help strengthen your desire for even further growth.

  • Engage with learning programs at your university or company. Chances are, your university offers clubs or other programs dedicated to the development of new skills. Companies often offer internal training opportunities or even "lunch and learn" programs to help keep employees learning.

  • Pursue online learning. Whether you pursue a degree, a certificate or a skills-building course, online learning offers the opportunity to learn on your own time. Whether you choose to advance your qualifications or you choose to simply learn a new skill (anything from basic coding to digital marketing to conflict management), continuing to grow your personal knowledge-base helps contribute to your growth mindset.

The Growth Mindset in learning.

A growth mindset is key to learning. Recent research has found a significant connection between this mindset and intrinsic motivation. As more people realize that knowledge and intelligence are pliable, not fixed, they become more open to learning new things. Understanding this malleability also helps to remove the fear of failure – a common roadblock for some.

Growth Mindset activities to cultivate in a learning environment.

There is no doubt that individuals can develop growth mindsets. However, as Dr. Dweck points out, we all have fixed mindset "triggers," like:

  • Facing challenges.
  • Receiving criticism.
  • Seeing others succeed where we haven't.

Understanding these triggers and confronting them when they arise is critical. A great way to start is to develop a couple of helpful practices for cultivating a growth mindset.

Question your assumptions.

We can easily become trapped in our own perceptions of and assumptions about the world. Our opinions, thoughts, values and beliefs are so enmeshed in our thought-processes that it can be a struggle to break free of them.

However, questioning your existing assumptions can help you have a more open mind. An open mind can learn something new from almost any situation.

Focusing on the process, not the outcome.

The iceberg metaphor is helpful when conceptualizing this suggestion. When we see an iceberg in the ocean, we are viewing only the 10 percent of it that's floating above the surface. These are the visible results, such as landing a great promotion or not getting the recognition you have been working toward. Success versus failure.

Below the surface, however, is the remaining 90 percent of the iceberg. Here, we have everything that comes together to achieve a given outcome. All the hard work, positive self-talk, continuous learning and pivoting that led to that outcome.

Someone with a fixed mindset might see the top of the iceberg and say, "I succeeded" or "I failed." Someone with a growth mindset would point out all of the learning that took place along the way – and understand how that learning helped them become the person they are today.

Grow from your setbacks.

When you make a mistake, receive criticism or fall short of achieving something you thought you would, it's important to focus on the progress you have made despite the setback. After all, this setback could be just what you need to experience in order to find success the next time around.

Advancing your education can be a great way to cultivate a growth mindset. Wondering where to start? Explore our degree and certificate programs or contact us.

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