Companies that chase the technological trappings of digital without first understanding whether their people have the requisite mindsets to embrace the opportunities for change and reinvention that digital brings will most likely fail.
“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
– Carol Dweck
As explained by Dweck, a growth mind-set is not just about effort. Perhaps the most common misconception is simply equating the growth mindset with effort. The growth mindset was intended to help close achievement gaps, not hide them. It is about telling the truth about a student's current achievement and then, together, doing something about it, helping him or her become smarter. Dweck's research challenged the common belief that intelligent people are born smart.
I have witnessed growth mindsets working in action at high-performance organizations and institutions. The path forward (walk the talk) is quite simple through town hall events, staff meetings, skip-level sessions or one-to-one discussions. However, it requires rigor and discipline while constantly reinforcing the message and recognition that culture change takes time. When I consult with leadership, I emphasize that human resources and other organizational processes need to be aligned to support a growth mindset. For example, a performance objective discussion more focused on the ‘how’ of a project rather than the ‘what’ of a result and a reward system that is more objective and qualitative based vs. objective and quantifiable. At RBS, specifically, we also have dedicated learning programs designed to support our colleagues to develop a growth mindset by way of video links from renowned researchers and speakers, quick reads, books recommendation and online courses.
A Growth Mindset in the digital age
In my experience, when embarking on a digital business transformation, too often organizations ignore the need to change the mindsets of their staff. A technology shift not backed up by a corresponding cultural shift puts the success of a digital business initiative at risk. The culture aspect and the technology demand equal attention from leaders because culture forms the backbone of all change initiatives for their digital business transformation. I feel, organizations and its leaders including employees trapped in a "fixed" mindset may slow down or, worse, derail the digital business transformation initiatives of the company. Unsurprisingly, the digital dynamic has left many senior executives struggling to ensure that their organizations are as agile, responsive, and open-minded to change and growth as they need to be to survive—let alone thrive—in this environment. Put simply, the cultures of many organizations aren’t prepared to change, or change fast enough, to seize the opportunities (or avoid the threats) that digital affords.
Digital will continue to open up new business vistas; yet harnessing its potential requires more than an understanding of technology.
In short, companies that chase the technological trappings of digital without first understanding whether their people have the requisite mindsets to embrace the opportunities for change and reinvention that digital brings will likely fail. By contrast, I have observed that executives who look to shape the cultures of their organizations, who react quickly to emerging trends and who are more open to new ways of working and thinking will be more innovative and better able to spot market shifts and thus become more profitable and disruptive competitors in their industries. That, I believe, translates into new, ahead-of-the-curve products, a thriving workforce, and new industry-altering business models that can outpace the competition.
Collectively, the following attributes will give organizations the edge when it comes to integrating the kinds of digital technologies that advance strategy. Of course, embedding a high-performance culture and environment of agility doesn’t happen instantly. Instead, it requires hard work and a coordinated effort from the entire organization, over a sustained period of time.
- Responsiveness to strategic opportunities and shifts - Agile organizations create an environment of trust and individual empowerment that enables and rewards innovation and risk-taking.
- Shorter decision, production, and review cycles - By streamlining internal processes, companies can move more quickly to pursue opportunities and adapt to changing market conditions.
- A focus on individual and organizational growth mindsets - The entire company, from the C-suite to the front line, must adopt a mindset of continual growth and learning.
- An emphasis on the voice of the customer - Creating a customer-centric mindset helps organizations to identify and respond quickly to consumer choices and behaviors rather than playing catch-up.
- Interdisciplinary, collaborative project teams - By eliminating siloed thinking and fostering collaboration both within teams and across functions, companies can build fruitful networks across the enterprise and also extend collaboration.
Essential conditions for building a Growth Mindset culture
To my mind, it’s a difficult road but there are definitely ways of nudging organizations towards a growth mindset:
- Recognize that everyone has fixed mindset triggers like challenges, change, or criticism, and work with them
- Do not encourage competition amongst employees
- Reward teamwork in concrete ways
- Do not punish when someone seeks feedback or admits to an error
- Reward honesty—everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how one handles a mistake that truly determines their personality
- Promote visibility so that everyone feels comfortable sharing information and collaborating
- Remember that there is no such thing as a constant growth mind-set, and learn how to recognize your own fixed mind-set moments
- Do not lash out at insecurity—insecurity inhibits growth and productivity
- Promote growth and learning over speed
- See “failure” as a learning opportunity, not an excuse for anger
Many organizations aren't prepared to change their cultures to seize the opportunities (or avoid the threats) that `digital' affords
Technology — enhancing and accelerating a Growth Mindset
It has been recently identified that a growth mindset is “one of the 10 intelligences that will gain prominence in the AI workplace.” There’s a great deal of evidence showing that leaders already recognize the importance of growth mindset for making big changes. In a recent industry research project, the NeuroLeadership Institute found digital transformation to be the leading business driver for organizations adopting a growth mindset. The report, entitled “Growth Mind-set Culture,” shows that 38 percent of organizations rely on growth mindset for such purposes. What these leaders understand is the insight that big changes require an open mind. Over the past decade, digital technologies have become a crucial part of global business. And for good reason, digital technology has connected the world to an unprecedented degree, giving companies the ability to reach customers in new ways, automate customer interactions and aggregate a previously unimaginable volume of information to better understand and influence individual consumer behavior. Moreover, digital technology has accelerated the pace of change in business, encouraging disruptive business models that quickly create new markets and just as quickly threaten others.
The main attributes that create a growth mindset environment would be: presenting skills as learnable; conveying that the organization values learning and perseverance, not just ready-made genius or talent; giving feedback in a way that promotes learning and future success; and presenting managers as resources for learning.
(The views and opinions expressed in the article are author’s own and do not reflect the views of his employer)