Investigating the link between growth mindset and culture change

Over the past couple of decades, research has made it increasingly clear that neural growth is not restricted to people’s formative years. We now understand that learning can be a life-long phenomenon.

Understanding this new scientific insight can have a profound effect on how we see the world. Before, we might have asked ourselves questions like:

  • How smart am I?
  • How musical am I?
  • How good a friend am I?

Through understanding that we can change (and improve) over the period of our lives, these questions might become:

  • How do I become smarter?
  • How could I become more musical?
  • How can I be a better friend?

American psychologist Dr Carol Dweck was one of the founding researchers into this idea of ongoing learning. As a result of her studies, she states that the focus of learning should be on ‘getting better, not being better’ — otherwise known as having a growth mindset. And she says that adopting a growth mindset significantly alters how much better at something we can become.

What exactly is ‘growth mindset’?

In a recent blog post, Belinda Bryant from Hartwick Associates in Wellington explains the concept of individual growth mindset, a concept that can also be applied to whole organisations. Belinda writes that ‘people with a growth mindset deeply believe what turns out to be supported by research — that the brain is ‘neuroplastic’ and can be made to grow when subjected to work, good learning strategies, and help from others’.

Belinda goes on to explain that having a growth mindset enables people to:

  • respond to difficulties as a challenge (rather than a threat) and therefore focus on solutions
  • respond to feedback positively and constructively
  • perform better the more difficult a task becomes
  • extend themselves more and develop faster

Having a growth mindset helps people to perform better themselves and to positively influence the performance of people they manage.

How can a growth mindset positively influence culture change?

Organisations committing to plain language change projects are great examples of organisations with a growth mindset. People leading this kind of change project are investing in their staff and trusting their staff’s ability to implement change. They’re prepared to commit to the effort it takes for an organisation to change. And they believe their people can achieve that change.

Through hard work, good strategies, and support from people both within and outside an organisation, plain language culture change can be a shining example of organisational growth mindset. And as Dweck says, ‘[when] entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation’.

Read more about Dr Carol Dweck’s thoughts on how companies can profit from a growth mindset.

Coloured letters saying 'GROWTH MINDSET'
Focus on getting better, not being better — Image by mypokcik