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How a ‘Growth Mindset’ Can Help Your Employees Embrace Innovation

By Allan Alveyra

Many companies are now feeling the need to innovate and modernize. However, not all of them are that agile to respond to the changing business landscapes. Promoting innovation is like skating on thin ice. Various issues can arise when forcing employees to break the mold and embrace change. Modernization takes more than setting up the latest LMS solution or some cloud-based services. You need to cultivate a philosophy called “growth mindset.” 

What is a growth mindset? 

Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist and professor, coined the concept growth mindset. Understanding that human beings operate in both fixed and growth mindsets, Dweck teaches that the key to greater achievement among individuals is embracing the latter.  

The best way to understand this idea is to imagine two types of employees with two different mindsets.

The employee who has a fixed mindset believes his abilities and intelligence are already fixed. Thus, excelling in one’s field becomes unnecessary. This type of person thinks that talent alone creates success.

On the other hand, a person with a growth mindset believes he can still hones his abilities through dedication and hard work. This belief gives the person the love for learning and the resilience to explore his potential.  

According to Dweck’s research, managers see greater potential in their employees when their companies adopt a growth mindset. 

How does a growth mindset apply to business strategy? 

Take it from Satya Nadalla, CEO of Microsoft. Nadalla is credited for his style of leadership which hinges to growth mindset. Since he took office in 2014, Nadella has promoted a more collaborative culture centered on empowering their workforce.  When asked about his concept about growth mindset, he said: 

If you take two kids at school, one of them has more innate capability but is a know-it-all. The other person has less innate capability but is a learn-it-all. The learn-it-all does better than the know-it-all. 

Satya Nadalla, CEO of Microsoft

Applying the growth mindset in their organization, Microsoft espoused a new management model which focused on three elements: modeling, coaching, and caring. 

Modeling means managers should be able to demonstrate and practice a growth mindset so that their employees can have a “model”. Coaching is simply creating a safe space where employees can learn and grow from their mistakes. Caring is attracting and retaining great people. This also follows knowing unique capabilities and investing in the growth of others. 

What are the ways to cultivate this type of perspective? 

To ask whether a growth mindset should be part of every business’ model is a no-brainer. How to begin with it though is the real challenge. Nonetheless, you should remember that this effort will not bring results overnight. It is a journey.  

As to how will leaders or managers help their communities incorporate a growth mindset, it will take them dedication and hard work, according to Dweck.  

Embracing a growth mindset calls for workers and leaders to step up their game. In this regard, here are some ways to help you cultivate a growth mindset in your company. 

Advocate continuous learning

The first step to introducing a growth mindset is to promote continuous learning. While this appears to be a tough row to hoe, things have been different.  

But again, it all boils down to defining unique and specific approaches that sit well to your staff. Whether it be e-learning or blended learning, how you invest in their personal and professional development will dictate the kind of results you are after. How you also kindle your employees’ sense of curiosity can inspire them to create their personal goals.  

Dialogue with your staff and support their progress

Everything can be a shock for your employees if you force them to instantly embrace changes. Instead of putting them into deep waters, dialogue with them and try to acknowledge their limitations. Look into their progress rather than your desired outcome.  

I believe where a growth mindset really makes an impact is via manager/employee communications, including daily touch-base conversations and regular performance check-ins. Leaders who take the time to listen to their employees are more likely to pick up on some negative or fixed-mindset language.

Stephen Childs, Vice President-Global Human Resources/Facilities for Panasonic Automotive 

Set SMART objectives

Part of introducing a new culture is presenting special challenges. To encourage employees to respond, it requires clarifying your objectives. As far as your objectives are concerned, they should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Oriented). By doing this, you and your employees can determine how far you’ve gone through the process and to what extent you’re willing to move forward.  

How does adopting a growth mindset help one embrace innovation? 

Coming into terms with innovation might be a little complicated. It also could mean going deeper into your existing business models and strategies. As what Dweck and company said: “Innovation requires both reaching across fields and, often acquiring more than a surface-level understanding of those fields.”.  

This means having that desire to succeed even in the face of complex and challenging circumstances. This is where a growth mindset comes into play. What a growth mindset does is that it prompts resilience and curiosity, encouraging a person to carry on with a new interest despite the challenges. 

When Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella assumed his post, he changed their culture from being extremely rigid and hierarchical to something that fosters collaboration, learning, and listening. Having an environment where people have the chance to be coached and be heard eliminates competition and bureaucracy. This perspective becomes instrumental to bringing change when it is due. People can embrace innovation when they are inspired to “develop” their passion instead of being pushed to “find” it.