Carol Dweck, a psychologist and professor from Stanford University argues in her framework that there are two types of mindsets using two theories; the incremental theory and the fixed mindset entity theory. Individuals who perceive talent as an attribute or quality as a person either has or lacks have a fixed mindset. Those who strive to learn, enjoy challenges, and see the potential to develop and improve skills consistently have a growth mindset. The framework was developed to help understand and manage people to their maximum potential and productivity levels. Although the concept has mainly been utilized in sports training and education, Dweck understands that her work could be extended beyond individuals and onto organizations.
Applying the mindset framework, particularly the growth mindset, could affect organizations and their employees, presenting significant implications for management. The management, through the human resources and other departments, has to provide the necessary resources and supervision to ensure that the employees are productive enough to achieve an organization’s business and operational goals. However, the mindset depends on individual factors. Dweck’s concept could be integrated into organizations to facilitate the recruitment of persons with the right mindset, education, and training. Research by Dweck and colleagues on company mindsets involving employees diversely sampled from Fortune 1000 companies revealed that most companies have predominantly fixed mindsets (Dweck, 2014). Most managers and recruiters believe that individuals have specific amounts of ability or talent which cannot be altered.
In another study, the researchers sought to understand the impact of prevailing organizational mindsets on employees’ satisfaction, ethical behavior, and collaboration levels, as well as their perceptions of the organizational culture. The research also explored how the mindset affected ethical behavior and innovation within the organization and the supervisors’ perception of employees. The study findings revealed numerous implications of the mindset on the organizational culture and employee attitudes. Employees from fixed-mindset organizations feel they have no support from the company and are, therefore, less committed and afraid of pursuing high-risk, innovative projects. There are high levels of mistrust within the workplace as employees keep secrets, cheat to achieve objectives, show the unethical nature of the organizational culture, and resent the few ‘star’ employees highly valued by the company. The supervisors in these organizations perceive their subordinates as solitary and unwilling to collaborate. In contrast, employees from growth-mindset organizations are rated as more collaborative, innovative, and committed to growth and learning, as well as the company’s overall success. Supervisors perceive these employees more positively than fixed-mindset organizations and are more likely to recommend them based on their management potential.
Although the impact of the growth mindset on the organization is yet to be proven performance-wise in terms of financial returns and other tangible metrics, the numerous findings from the research indicate that the integration of the growth mindset positively affects organizational culture, resulting in happier employees and overall risk-taking and innovative workforce. Dweck inputs that the top management plays a crucial in integrating the growth mindset into the organization and operations of a company. Numerous examples underline the significance of top management in ensuring that the employees and organizational culture embrace the growth mindset. Jack Welch, the CEO at GE, embraced the growth mindset once appointed and looked to maximize the employees’ potential through education and training (Dweck, 2014). He invested vast resources into coaching and grooming the executive team to treat and approach employees differently and recognize their capacity for growth. Phupinder Gill, the CEO of CME Group, revolutionized the company’s organizational culture by focusing on employee effort instead of output, a key component of the growth-mindset concept. Emphasizing effort recognizes the employees’ potential for growth, especially with the ever-changing factors of technology and globalization, while output could be associated with one’s talent.
The effectiveness of the growth mindset fundamentally depends on recruitment. During hiring, growth mindset organizations value the passion for learning and development, capacity, and potential rather than the past accomplishments and credentials of the applicant. Given the emphasis on development, growth-mindset organizations are likely to recruit from the existing workforce instead of reflexively looking for outsider talents. From the CME Group example, the new CEO introduced behavioral hiring techniques with interview questions focused on mindset to determine their perception towards development and willingness to learn. A suitable culture is created by employees who love challenges and improvement, not pedigree.
The growth mindset approach seems to be effective in transforming the culture and performance of organizations as mainstream companies are making the shift. Google, for instance, has gone as far as recruiting employees without undergraduate qualifications but with the capacity and willingness to learn and develop independently. It should be noted, however, that despite the reported success of the growth mindset, its effectiveness also depends on the individual employees. Individual mindsets also factor in, as people perceive themselves as more talented and should be recognized or compensated for their abilities. Such individuals are more likely to prefer fixed mindset organizations where ‘star’ employees are highly valued and appreciated. Generally, however, adopting the growth mindset has been proven by evidence to change a company’s performance and organizational culture significantly.
Dweck, C. (2014). Talent: How companies can profit from a “growth mindset.” Harvard Business Review, 92(11), 28-29