On Friday afternoon, at The Westridge School here in Pasadena, I listened to a guest lecturer, Dr. Carol Dweck, one of the premiere researchers in the field of motivation and learning. Her years of study as a Psychology Professor at Stanford University, Columbia and Harvard Universities lend keen insights into how people succeed and how one can foster success, even at an early age of learning.
Dr. Dweck divides the world into learners and non-learners, instead of success and failure. In her book "Mindset," she explains the difference between a growth-mindset, or learners and a fixed-mindset or non-learners. The non-learners place too much emphasis on being gifted, getting the perfect test scores and essentially being infallible. They will look smart at all costs, even if they have to cheat on a test or hide their mistakes. This group seeks the facade of perfection rather than joy of learning. Dweck suggests this group becomes an entire generation of workers who need awards and praise in order to function in their job and career. That is the least of their problems.
The growth-mindset learners by contrast are taught and believe that intelligence is something they can cultivate through good instruction, years of devotion and discipline to something of interest, including math and science, and that they do indeed learn from taking chances and making "mistakes." Learners push beyond their comfort zones and find great joy in dedication and hardwork - the non-learners believe if something doesn't come easily and naturally to them, it is not worth pursuing.
Imagine all the law students, med students and business school grads who refuse to let others see them as human. Imagine the mantra and facade in Corporate America: look good at all costs! And we wonder about the financial trouble we find ourselves in. NON LEARNERS AT THE HELM! Well, maybe a little harsh, but during my 25+ years in corporate media and publishing, I've seen a lot of posers (narcissists) who have made their way through life, avoiding challenges and digging deep to find solutions (which usually means collaboration,) and when faced with the adversity of Life today, offer the pose or stance of success instead of real solutions and answers.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of "Blink," "Outliers" and other best sellers, wrote a piece in The New Yorker, years ago, about the "fixed mind-set" of Enron management and how this performance-based, let's-hire-the-best-grades-coming-out-of-Ivy League mentality, contributed to it's failure. By creating a culture that worshipped "talent" at all costs, they forced their employees to look and act talented - forcing all into a fixed mindset. So, instead of learning, growing and moving the organization forward, everyone, including management feared being "judged." If fear and worry consume the organization, it is hard for courage and innovation to survive yet alone flourish in a company of fixed mindsets.
The good news is this: because of Dr. Carol Dweck and others, the joy of learning and working hard, facing a challenge through collaborating and creativity are being celebrated and encouraged - valued! The mindset you hold defines you and your abilities. Can you change your mindset? "Absolutely, yes!" announced Dr. Dweck to her audience. "The brain is always growing new connections - just keep learning. The growth of your mind is in your hands."
Brutal bosses (Devil Wears Prada) are out, the mindset that fosters creativity, compassion and collaboration (while increasing productivity) is in.