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Growth Mindset Culture

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In NLI’s new Idea Report, “Growth Mindset Culture,” we present and analyze data from 20 organizations around the world using growth mindset in various forms. The Report offers compelling insights into how billion-dollar giants think about the future; includes a Q&A with growth mindset’s originator, psychologist Carol Dweck; features thought-provoking case studies; and presents research-backed advice for leaders looking to implement a growth mindset in their own teams. Growth mindset has existed in academia for decades. For the first time ever, NLI’s Idea Report shows how organizations are making Growth Mindset Culture come alive.
NeuroLeadership Institute
Growth Mindset
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Contributors ...................................................................................................................4
Executive Summary ......................................................................................................5
Introduction: The State of Growth Mindset .......................................................... 11
Key Findings .................................................................................................................. 13
Finding 1:
Organizations personalize the
meaning of growth mindset ......................................................................................................15
Finding 2:
Enabling digital transformation is the top
business driver for growth mindset adoption ........................................................................16
Finding 3:
Top leadership support is critical to the
success of growth mindset initiatives.......................................................................................19
Finding 4:
Implementing an array of habit-building
activities helps growth mindset behaviors stick .....................................................................21
Finding 5:
Growth mindset can be embedded
in a variety of talent processes ..................................................................................................23
Finding 6:
Employee engagement is favorite impact
metric of growth mindset initiatives .........................................................................................25
Finding 7:
The challenges of growth mindset
initiatives are not unique .............................................................................................................27
Case-in-Point: Telenor ...............................................................................................28
Case-in-Point: Microsoft ...........................................................................................32
Carol Dweck Q&A ........................................................................................................36
Potential Slipups ..........................................................................................................42
Conclusion: What You Can Do Today.................................................................... 44
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Andrea Derler, PhD,
Director of Industry Research at NLI
Rachel Cardero,
Senior Consultant at NLI
Michaela Simpson, PhD,
Research Scientist at NLI
Heidi Grant, PhD,
Chief Science Ocer at NLI
Mary Slaughter,
Executive Vice President: Global Practices
& Consulting; Practice Lead: Culture &
Leadership at NLI
Drake Baer,
Director of Content at NLI
Ivette Celi,
Senior Graphic Design Manager at NLI
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Growth Mindset
Growth Mindset Culture (GMC) is key to
transformation, engagement, and innovation.
In this Idea Report, we investigate the latest
applications of growth mindset through in-depth
interviews with 20 organizations in the U.S.,
Australia, and Europe. We also trace its origins in
an in-depth Q&A with Carol Dweck, the Stanford
psychologist who discovered it. The result is an
expansive look at how the concept of growth
mindset has evolved and how organizations
are embedding it to support change and
transformation eorts.
Key insights:
The top business driver for GMC is to
enable digital transformation. Addressing
the challenges of digital transformation was
the most frequently mentioned reason for
organizations to introduce a GMC. Aected
industries span from insurance to beverages.
Senior leadership support is critical to
implementing GMC. Over two-thirds of our
sample employed top leaders to communicate,
teach, and role-model growth mindset through
their organization.
Growth mindset can be built into various talent
processes. Teaching employees about growth
mindset is only the start. More than a third of
companies we spoke with embed it in more
than five touch points in the talent cycle: from
onboarding to performance management to
high potential selection and development.
Myths of growth mindset are stubborn. Leaders
and employees alike attach personalized
meanings to growth mindset, some of which are
inaccurate — like that GMC means boundless
growth or unlimited productivity.1 Talent
practitioners must work dutifully to ensure the
scientific definition is known and abided by.
Leaders can use growth mindset to embrace change
across industries and organizations.
1 5 Mistakes Companies Make about Growth Mindsets, Heidi Grant,
Mary Slaughter, and Andrea Derler, Harvard Business Review, July 23
And she said, ‘You know, I
had recently applied for this
job, but I almost didn’t apply,
because I was sort of taken
aback when I saw the job
post because I didn’t have
all of these qualifications.
But then the growth mindset
approach kicked in and I
thought, well, wait, I can do
this. I know I can do this job,
but I may not meet all these
qualifications yet.’
Performance Management Director,
Global Health Services Company
A couple of them said,
‘I am really nervous. This
is outside of my comfort
zone.’ But in the same
breath they said, ‘I guess
this is that growth mindset,
huh? So I have to try.
Senior Talent Practitioner,
Petrochemicals Company
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
FIXED MINDSET = “be good”
Demonstrating skills
Performing better than others
Fixed Mindset
What if I’m not good?
Maybe I don’t have the skills
I could make mistakes
Others may do it better
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Do you believe
that attributes are
fixed traits that can’t
be changed or that
they are malleable
qualities that can
be grown?
GROWTH MINDSET = “get better”
Developing skills
Performing better than you did before
Source: NeuroLeadership Institute, 2018
Growth Mindset
I can get better
I can always improve
A great chance to develop skills
A year ago, I wouldn’t have done this well
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
The State of Growth Mindset Culture
To say that businesses must navigate shifting
landscapes borders on cliché; to say that they must
learn from setbacks is obvious; and the need for
resilience is as self-evident as the need for oxygen.
Yet how to live up to these demands remains, for
many leaders, a mystery. And given culture’s nasty
habit of eating strategies for breakfast, adapting to
our turbulent times requires a set of shared everyday
habits and systems that support them, rather than
some batch of catchy talking points.
Enter growth mindset. Decades of scientific research
into motivation indicate that a growth mindset,
which holds that skills and abilities can be improved
in ways that shape the purpose of the work that
you do, leads to academic achievement, relational
fulfillment, and professional success. And while the
idea has spread rapidly like wildfire across forward-
thinking organizations, it has been criminally
understudied in the field — until now.
That is the mission of the Idea Report series from the
NeuroLeadership Institute: to investigate the most
important concepts cross-pollinating between the
academy and enterprise, map where they’ve been
and where they’re going, and provide concrete
applications that you can apply in your work today.
In this inaugural edition, we premiere our industry
research into Growth Mindset Culture and surround
those findings with actionable insights, including
those drawn from a long-form Q&A with Carol
Dweck, the originator of the idea.
Let’s begin by defining our terms.
What is growth mindset?
Growth mindset began with an insight into why
some schoolchildren got excited about dicult
problems while others got anxious. Dweck observed
that some kids believed that people were born with
a finite amount of intelligence that can’t be changed
(fixed mindset), while others thought that intelligence
is malleable and can be grown and nurtured through
practice (growth mindset).
It’s since expanded out of the classroom, to
athletics, conflict resolution, relationships, and
career management. In our work with organizations,
we define growth mindset as the belief that skills and
abilities can be improved and that the development
of skills and abilities is the goal of the work you do.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
The benefits of growth mindset cultures can be
Workers have 47% higher trust in their company
Workers are 34% more likely to feel a sense of
ownership and commitment to the future of
their company
Workers show 65% stronger agreement that
their company supports risk-taking
Why growth mindset culture matters
Given the way these self-beliefs shape social
interaction, job performance, and personal well-
being, the appeal of cultivating a growth mindset
culture may seem obvious. Yet finding the many
places where you may hold growth or fixed mindsets
about your abilities is a life journey on its own — how
can you possibly shift the collective mindset across
an organization of thousands?
Whether or not organizations are conscious of it,
culture is shaped by priorities, habits, and systems.
2 Dweck, C., Murphy, M., Chatman , J., & Kray, L. (n.d.). Why Fostering
a Growth Mindset in Organizations Matters. In Senn Delaney. Retrieved
As such, our extensive interviews across industries
have sought to identify elements across these three
interconnected vectors that seek to promote a
growth mindset. Learning whether or not they are
successful will require further work and time, but this
research represents the current state of the practice.
Welcome to the frontier of growth. We’re happy to
have you here.
Growth mindset and the brain
Your mindset shapes the cognitive mechanics
of how you deal with things. Growth mindset is
characterized by eort and perseverance.3 Research
has found that when receiving negative feedback
on performance, people who endorse a growth
mindset display dierent patterns of activation in
the brain than those who endorse a fixed mindset.
In the growth mindset group, attentional resources
are engaged in a way that enhances learning from
failure, retention of new information, and resilience
to setbacks.
3 Mangels, J. A, Butter field, B., Lamb, J, Good, C & Dweck, C. (2006,
September). Why do beliefs about intelligence influence learning
success? A social cognitive neuroscience model. Soc Cogn Aect
Neurosci, 1(2), 75-86.
Priorities Habits Systems
Like any other culture change, GMC requires
alignment between Priorities, Habits, and Systems.
Messaging campaigns
Leader advocacy
Feedback conversations
Risk taking
Performance evalutations
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Relatedly, a recent study found that upon receiving
negative career feedback, young adults who more
strongly endorsed growth mindset beliefs were less
likely to disengage from their career goals.4 Teams
using growth mindset are better able to openly
express disagreements, accept feedback from one
another, increase their confidence over trials, and
end up setting more challenging goals for them selves
in the long run. In contrast, an orientation toward
a fixed mindset is characterized by pressure to
perform, reduced attentional resources to address
mistakes, weaker learning, avoidance of challenging
experiences, and increased vulnerability to setbacks.5
Your mindset – whether growth or fixed – aects
how you respond to feedback and plays a major
role in guiding your beliefs, the choices you make,
and the goals you pursue. It shapes how you deal
with success and failures and has a powerful impact
on the neural processing that influences memory,
learning, resilience, and performance.
4 Hu, S., Hood, M., & Creed, P. A. (2017 ). Negative career feedback
and career goal disengagement in young adults: The moderating role
of mind-set about work. Journal of Vocational Behavior.
5 Schroder, H ., Moran, T., Donnellan, B., & Moser, J. (2014,
December). Mindset induction eects on cognitive control: A
neurobehavioral investigation. Biological Psychology, 27-37.
Growth Mindset Culture: Key findings
We set out to identify what organizations
are doing to embed the concept of
growth mindset into their culture, work
processes, and talent cycle.
Based on our recent industry research6, this report
What growth mindset really means for
employees and organizations
The business reasons for companies adopting
growth mindset
How companies get people to care, adopt
habits and behaviors, and build talent processes
with growth mindset concepts
How they define success using growth mindset
at work
Which stumbling points they experience
What advice they have for novices
Examples and best practices
With that said, let’s dive into the findings themselves.
6 Appendix: research methodology, and sample information.
If we want growth mindset to happen in real
life, we have to create the conditions for it
and modify them as we learn what works
and what doesn’t. We have found that these
conditions dier depending on where we are
in the evolution, moving from awareness to
adoption to advocacy of growth mindset. This
work is iterative, data-informed, and ongoing.
Senior Director, Organizational Development, Technology Company
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
HR practitioners work hard to clarify and
communicate the correct, scientific definition
throughout the organization. At times, they
encounter individuals or teams that hang on to a
misinformed idea of growth mindset, and they work
continuously on erasing these myths of growth
mindset.7 People attach a variety of personalized
meanings to growth mindset that seems to shape
their thinking, activities, and culture.
Across our sample, the most frequently attached
meanings of growth mindset are:
Development: Incremental and continuous
improvement, self-development, learning,
helping others grow, and growing beyond one’s
current role
Empowerment: Mutual accountability, taking
responsibility, taking charge, and being fearless
in times of change
Openness: Embracing the new, being open to
new challenges and industries, being curious,
“dreaming big,” and challenging the status quo
7 5 Mistakes Companies Make about Growth Mindsets, Heidi Grant,
Mary Slaughter, and Andrea Derler, Harvard Business Review, July 23
Meaning creates memory.
The fact that individuals
attach their personalized
meaning to growth mindset
in their organization may
be a good thing, as long
as the correct meaning
of the concept has been
communicated. Why?
People attach meanings to
new concepts when they’re
relevant and important to
them. This is a way of tying
the new idea to the structures
of knowledge they already
have, in a process that
researchers call “generation.”
Open Failure
Comparison Accountability
Self Growth
Organizations Personalize the Meaning
of Growth Mindset
Word cloud based on interviewee
responses to being asked about the
meaning of growth mindset. Source: Industry Research, NeuroLeadership Institute, 2018
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
In our sample, 38% of companies cited digital
transformation as the main driver of growth
mindset initiatives.
These organizations are operating in a variety of
Multinational conglomerate: Finds growth
mindset useful to improve operational
excellence, to enable lean management, and
to foster a more innovative culture
Global insurance broker: Introduced GMC for
high potential employees to enable a newly
outlined digital strategy, which focuses on
data/analytics, new clientele, and branding
European telecommunications company:
Uses GMC to help employees continue to
adapt to the technological changes in the
telecommunications industry
American-Canadian financial services provider:
Applies growth mindset to support employees
during significant transformation caused by
artificial intelligence and other technologies.
With nontraditional competitors entering
finance, the workforce needs to be adaptive
and resilient.
American technology company: Uses GMC as
support for a culture-driven business-growth
tool during ongoing digitization of the business
that caused a reorientation of the strategy,
culture, purpose, and mission, an eort that
was driven by the CEO.
Enabling digital transformation is the top business driver
for GMC adoption
13% Digital transformation
Business improvement
Growing up
PM transformation
Quality enhancement
Business drivers of growth mindset
adoption in organizations*
Source: Industry Research, NeuroLeadership Institute, 2018
*Percentage of organizations in our sample that
adopt growth mindset to fulfill the listed objectives.
Percentages add up to 102% due to rounding.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Growth mindset catalyzes
transformation. While change
can cause people to fall into a
threat response that makes them
less able to learn, people with a
growth mindset are more adaptable,
able to recover from mistakes and
begin again.8 Why?
People with a growth mindset believe
that intelligence can evolve through
eort; therefore, they are more able
to detect their mistakes, recalibrate
their behavior, and improve accuracy
after making mistakes. One study
showed that people who endorsed a
growth mindset had electrical activity
in areas of the brain believed to be
related to the awareness of mistakes
and how to adjust to them.9
8 Grant, H., Cox, C., & Rock, D. (201 5, October). Organizational
Growth Mindset. NeuroLeadership Journal, 6.
9 Moser et al (2011): Mind your errors: evidence for a neural
mechanism linking growth mind-set to adaptive posterror
adjustments. Psychol Sci, December 22 (12), p. 1484-9.
Global beverage company
A global beverage company wanted to expand
its repertoire and business potential beyond its
traditional focus areas. Already heavily invested
in big data and artificial intelligence for product
development and other work streams, the
company put a renewed emphasis on becoming
a “growth company.” This meant being more
agile and more attuned to feedback in order to
adapt. The strategy was twofold: staying true to
its well-known brand and building confidence
on Wall Street by continuing to be an innovator
and market leader.
From the start, the CEO considered building a
growth mindset culture an invaluable part of
the strategy for employees at all levels.
The culture-transformation eort began with the
definition of “growth behaviors,” as in curiosity,
empowerment, iteration, and inclusiveness. It
was implemented with the strong support of
business leaders and dedicated change agents.
It also involved embedding growth mindset
into talent systems, from hiring to performance
management and leadership development.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Other business drivers for growth mindset
adoption are:
Business Improvement: Introducing lean
or agile methodology into work streams,
restructuring teams, implementing a new
business strategy, increasing the speed of go-
to-market ability
Maturation: Evolution from “start-up to grown-
up” company, an expansion often accompanied
by turmoil, financial pressure, or other setbacks
Reinvention: Eorts to change culture or
reorganize during or after experiencing
financial problems such as stock decline or
CEO turnover
Performance Management Transformation:
Intentional improvement or overhaul of
performance-management processes.
Quality Enhancement/Accreditation: Only the
university in our sample cited the continuation
of the institution’s accreditation status and
quality-enhancement eorts as the reason for
growth mindset adoption
Organizations have many reasons for embedding
growth mindset. They include better adapting to
change in their workforce, instilling the belief in
continuous learning and development, providing
the right environment for risk-taking and learning
from failure, and encouraging higher levels of
collaboration. Indeed, previous research10 found
that growth mindset cultures helped employees
develop and improve with eort.
10 Dweck, C ., Murphy, M., Chatman, J., & Kray, L. (n.d.). Why Fostering
a Growth Mindset in Organizations Matters. In Senn Delaney. Retrieved
Digital transformation absolutely disrupts
the culture in every organization as well
as places a greater priority on purpose-
driven mission and inclusion.
Senior Director, Organizational Development, Technology Company
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
The support and active engagement from top
leaders before and during growth mindset
initiatives is the most frequently used method to
raise interest and create purpose. In our sample,
three-quarters of organizations use top leaders
to communicate, teach, and role model growth
mindset throughout the company.
Yet fewer than half (37%) of organizations we
spoke with use a multipronged approach to set
growth mindset as a priority.
Other methods to implement and embed the
message around growth mindset are:
Engaging change agents/champions/
Creating consistent communication channels
Communicating the business case for growth
Responding to employee grassroot eorts and
preexisting interest in growth mindset and/or
development tools
Inspiration by external scientists to learn about
the science of growth mindset
Top leadership support is critical to the success
of Growth Mindset Culture initiatives
Number of dierent
approaches used for priority
setting about growth mindset*
Source: Industry Research, NeuroLeadership Institute, 2018
*Percentage of organizations in our sample using
one or more ways to set growth mindset as a priority
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
A four-pronged approach to GMC in an
American tech firm
An American software company used the growth
mindset concept to overcome significant internal
turmoil and growing pains as it experienced three
CEOs in one year, major restructuring, and a new
sales and business culture.
After getting the buy-in from the CHRO, the
responsible talent practitioner began to set
growth mindset as a priority on four fronts: first by
gathering employee feedback around the need for
support tools during these ongoing changes, then
by building a strong business case for the initiative,
next by getting business leaders to buy in, and
finally by building a consistent communications
plan on the usefulness of growth mindset in
times of change. These combined eorts helped
employees and leaders across the organization
find growth mindset more relevant.
Leaders can inspire change.
Organizations use the
commitment of their leaders
in the growth mindset philosophy
to spread the word and engage the
workforce. Indeed, this can be a smart
thing to do, because, because if leaders
are engaged with their workforce
through inspirational communication
and a sense of “we,” employees are more
likely to follow. Why?
Leaders who use inclusive language such
as “we” and “us” can create the sense
that positive change is happening within
organizations.11 Research has shown
that when followers feel they are part of
the same group as the leader, they are
more likely to be receptive to the leader’s
propositions and ideas.12 Moreover, for
leaders to have a bigger inspirational
impact, it would serve them to refer to
the collective rather than to themselves.
One brain-imaging study showed that
study participants paid more attention
to messages conveyed by their leaders
when the messages were inspirational
(“For any one of us to succeed, we must
succeed as a nation united”) rather than
when they were not (“The nation will not
succeed without my personal input in
the coming years”).13
11 Seyranian, V. (2014): Social identity framing communication
strategies for mobilizing social change, The Leadership Quarterly,
25, p. 468-486.
12 McGarty et al. (1994): The Eects of Salient Group
Memberships on Persuasion, Small Group Research, 25 (2), p.
267-2 93.
13 Molenberghs, P. et al. (2015): The Neuroscience of
Inspirational Leadership: The Importance of Collective-
Oriented L anguage and Shared Group Membership. Journal of
Management, January.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Organizations use an array of habit-building
activities to help growth mindset behaviors stick,
such as:
Leader role modeling: Top leaders regularly
talk about growth mindset, facilitate sessions,
share tools, conduct exercises, tell true stories
about ”what good looks like”
“In-the-moment” reinforcements: Recognizing
and describing behaviors on white boards,
celebrating successes, putting up posters along
the oce walls
Tools: HR designs conversation guides for
managers, self-assessments for individuals
Performance philosophy: Emphasis in
performance conversation lies on goal setting
versus evaluation of past performance as well
as strength-based conversations; feedback is
given and received in all directions
Organizations deploy a range of reminders, from
the whimsical to the formal:
Playing a growth mindset board game
Lobby has a physical “graveyard of failed ideas”
Growth mindset lunch-and-learn events
Wristbands indicating frequency of asking for
Regular humorous cat memes about growth
“Failure Fridays” and “Wine with Amy” events
(senior leaders share mistakes and learnings)
Coaches are trained in the growth mindset concept
Regular growth mindset teleconferences
Growth mindset reminder cards
Changes in language — in executive speeches, team
meetings, one-on-ones, and beyond — help, too.
As in:
”Developmental” replaces “negative”
“Win-Learn-Change” term used in daily
reflections about what went well in a given day,
what they stumbled upon, what they didn’t enjoy
today, what they will do dierently tomorrow
”What if” and “yet” used in daily work meetings
to spur expansive thinking
Managers ask during check-in conversations:
“How are you going to move beyond this?” or
“What is the next thing you will do?”
Implementing an array of habit-building activities
helps growth mindset behaviors stick
Managers ask
during check-in
conversations: “How
are you going to move
beyond this?” or “What
is the next thing you
will do?”
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Growth mindset habit building in pharma
An American pharmaceutical company adopted
growth mindset as a performance-improvement tool.
Since the idea had already been around in pockets of
the company, the workforce was open and welcoming
toward growth mindset as a continuous development
tool, and the idea also enjoyed the CEO’s full support.
The talent team leading the training eort learned
about creative and personalized ways in which business
units around the world tried to set constant reminders
and reinforcements of growth mindset behaviors for
themselves. For instance:
The company instituted wristbands as visual
reminders to ask for feedback (yellow – asked
for feedback in the past week; blue – asked
for feedback that day; red – didn’t ask for
feedback yet)
Pumpkin seeds as symbols of growth are planted
and harvested by team members as a physical
embodiment of the growth mindset concept
Regular “Growth Mindset Breakfasts” where
people come into the oce to discuss growth
Posters of what growth mindset means to the
company are displayed in window panes
These activities are paired with HR-driven eorts
such as embedding growth mindset in performance
transformation, carrying out regular training and
workshops, and dedicating change agents to embed
the growth mindset language in the daily workflow.
Repetition creates habits.
Getting new desirable behaviors
to “stick” is often the biggest
challenge in the way of
organizational change. Habits
are performed repeatedly and
consistently in certain work situations
so that they are performed with little
thought, intention, and awareness.14
Common language is key. A
common language provides a new
frame with which to look at existing
behaviors and facilitates learning.
While everyone will have had the
experience of both growth- and
fixed-mindset thinking, without a
language to capture the dierence
it may go unnoticed. Common
language organizes prior experience
and enables us to make informed
choices about our future behavior.
It also allows us to communicate
with one another about our
experience more eectively, labeling
mindset triggers and providing clear
guideposts for behavior. The use of
a common language also serves as
to prime behavior — simply hearing
about growth mindset in meetings
and hallways serves to unconsciously
encourage its adoption.15
14 Lally, P. et al (2010): How are habits formed: Modeling
habit formation in the real world, European Journal of
Social Ps ychology 40 (6).
15 Halvorson, Heidi Grant. Succeed: How we can reach
our goals. Penguin, 2010.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Growth mindset can be embedded in a variety
of talent processes and systems
56% 56% 56%
44% 44%
19% 13% 13%
Learning Leadership
Development Performance
Management Hiring Tal ent
Reviews Career
Development HiPo Selection
& Development Onboarding
Adoption is most frequent — 56% of organizations
do it — in Learning, Leadership Development and
Performance Management. For example:
An American Financial Services Company hires
talent based on behavioral interview questions
meant to identify curiosity and a desire to learn
without asking any questions directly related to
fixed or growth mindset
A software company in Silicon Valley already
exposes new hires to its strong growth mindset
culture in its onboarding program, where
it spends time defining, clarifying, providing
examples of growth mindset behavior, identifying
phrases for recognition, and suggesting ways to
overcome setbacks
An Oil Services Company in Europe changed its
talent review process by talking about perceived
potential rather than evaluating performance,
and its manager-coaching training provides
growth-mindset-oriented coaching lessons,
discussion guidelines, and a journal for managers
A Global Health Services Organization found
that the introduction of growth mindset enabled
a smoother performance management
transformation toward the abolishment of
An Australian global insurance broker began its
growth mindset initiatives with its high potential
pools and a rehaul of its leadership-development
curriculum. It selects its high-potential talent
based on demonstrated growth mindset behaviors
and does not hesitate to challenge candidates on
their thinking around growth mindset
In all, 38% of organizations take a comprehensive
approach by embedding growth mindset in five or
more talent processes (see graphic on next page).
Six talent processes are the maximum any one
organization embeds growth mindset in.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Information technology company embeds
growth mindset in six talent processes
An American information technology company with
more than 55,000 employees started to embrace
the concept of growth mindset after a major
restructuring. The company’s market performance
was declining, and a business turnaround was
urgently needed.
To create a culture of performance improvement
and innovation, the company launched a growth
mindset initiative that was followed up with a
holistic approach to embedding the concept into six
dierent talent processes:
1. Performance Management Revamp: Reshaped
and reframed PM, discontinued ratings
2. Coaching: Refocused on coaching with a
growth mindset language
3. Career Conversations: Encouraged managers
to reinforce messages around curiosity and
openness to new roles, personal reinvention
and considering lateral not just vertical career
4. Talent Reviews: Reframed its definition of
performance and potential based on the idea of
growth mindset
5. Team Management: Taught managers to think
dierently about team members and individual
6. Leadership Development: Built growth mindset
into the new leadership model and into all
leadership development programs
One process
Two processes
Three processes
Four processes
Five processes
Six processes
Percentage of companies embedding
growth mindset in various talent processes
*Percentage of organizations in our sample
embedding growth mindset in the listed
number of talent processes
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Organizations define success with the
implementation of growth mindset initiatives in
various ways, but employee engagement scores
tops the list of specific impact metrics. Growth-
mindset-oriented questions are added to regular
pulse and engagement surveys to track progress
on desired measures. Some of the reported results
at the information technology company read:
82% of managers demonstrate GM behaviors
92% of employees agree that learning is part
of the job
77% of employees feel as if they’re getting the
right level of goal-setting conversations with
their managers
Other metrics organizations track in relation
to their growth mindset initiatives include
overall attrition numbers, the perceived quality
of performance and check-in conversations,
employees’ favorability of the growth mindset
concept in general, and, in one instance, marks on
a scale measuring views on whether intelligence is
fixed or malleable. Just 23% of the organizations in
our sample track more than three indicators, but
talent practitioners reported a slew of qualitative
stories about impact and successes. The strongest
emphasis lies on the following:
Impact on employees: positive reception at
learning events; people picking up on the
concept; increased resilience; positive “can-
do” reactions during change and turmoil; a
perceived sense of empowerment; visible and
observable behavior change and demonstrated
growth mindset behaviors; increased levels of
collaboration, innovation, prototyping
Impact on talent processes: growth mindset
concept influences HR’s and talent team’s
approach to the design of talent processes
(including talent acquisition, talent reviews,
leadership development, and performance
Impact on culture: decrease of internal
competition; goal is “getting better not good”;
increased values of feedback and continuous
learning; employees are more aligned on
important business issues
Employee Engagement is the favored impact metric
of growth mindset initiatives
Reported results at the information technology company
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Some descriptions of observed behavior changes:
“We’ve seen the growth mindset be successful
when things change. So whether it’s new
software we’re bringing out or trying dierent
organizational models — whatever it might be —
we’ve really noticed the people who step up and
accept and move this stu through really quickly
versus what we historically did, which was argue
over why.”
VP of HR, Financial Services Company
“I hear stories from people out in the market of
how they are doing a market tour — that’s when
you go into the market to see how we’re doing.
It’s no longer what you call a ‘milk run’ where you
would go in and make everything perfect. Your
leader says, ‘Let’s go into the market and see
what it really looks like so we can really learn and
get better.’ Those kinds of everyday examples of
how people do their jobs with the things that are
emerging as best practices.”
Talent Consultant at a Global Beverage Company
“There’s been tremendous amounts of change
and our attrition rate is still under 10%. People are
engaged. There is no doom and gloom.”
Director of Training & Development,
Software Company
Embedding growth mindset in education
An educational institution in the Southeastern U.S.
started to embed growth mindset into its student
and faculty activities two years ago.
Growth mindset was introduced in an 18-month
initiative to enable continuous quality enhancement
and maintain the university’s accreditation status.
With this, the university also began to track certain
metrics that would measure progress in the adoption
of growth mindset for students, sta, and faculty.
These metrics are:
Decrease of achievement gaps in students
Higher adoption rates of comments and reviews
on reports and projects
Decrease in number of students changing
rooms after conflicts
Theory of Intelligence scores
We are exceptionally
fortunate in our CEO who
uses the terminology.
That’s really been a big
part for us.
Global Head,
Talent and Learning at a Technology Company
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Painful self-awareness, misunderstanding, and lack
of organizational support are frequently mentioned
challenges during growth mindset initiatives. Other
stumbling points include misinterpretations around
what growth mindset really is, lack of organizational
support implementing the concept into daily work
routines, lack of understanding which metrics to
use to track progress, risk-averse cultures, and
skepticism about the theory.
The evolution toward a growth
mindset can be uncomfortable.
Dicult emotions are a natural
part of the learning process.
Learning about fixed and
growth mindsets can — at first
— be daunting. In confronting
information that may conflict
with a person’s self-image,
they may feel uneasy and
uncomfortable.16 If this self-
image clashes with the person’s
or others’ expectations of the
person, it may lead to emotions
such as agitation, fear,
or threat.17
16 Markus, H. & Wurf, E. (1987) The Dynamic Self-
Concept: A Social Psychological Perspective, Annual
Review of Psychology, 38 p. 299-337.
17 Higgins, E.T. (1987) Self-Discrepancy: A Theor y Relating
Self and Aect, Psychological Review, 94 (3), p. 319-340.
The challenges of growth mindset initiatives
are not unique
If you truly embrace a
growth mindset, you
never have to have a
dicult conversation.
You’re just having a series
of conversations and
you’re doing them in a
way that is authentic and
humanistic and growth-
oriented. You never get
to the point where you’re
so frustrated that it’s a
dicult conversation.
Managing Director, People Development,
Human Capital Consulting Firm
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Telenor is a Norwegian multinational tele-
communications company headquartered near
Oslo. As a 160-year-old mobile telecommunications
company serving 172 million customers across
Scandinavia and Asia,18 the company found itself in
the midst of technological change.
To stay successful in a highly competitive and fast-
changing business landscape, Telenor’s Leadership
Development team introduced growth mindset
culture as a way to help its workforce increase
self-awareness and learning, challenge existing
work processes, and go beyond comfort zones.
For Telenor’s employees, growth mindset means
perseverance in times of change, being curious
and asking lots of questions, and achieving more
tomorrow than they did today.19
A group of Telenor’s senior managers were the first
group to go through the growth mindset training
program. After positive feedback from the one-day
growth mindset workshop (which was part of a four-
18 Telenor Group at a Glance (n.d.). In Telenor Group. Retrieved
August 28, 2018, from
19 These items were collected in a recent internal employee survey
by Telenor, 2018.
day executive leadership development program)
with the 60 leaders, the rollout for the company’s
22,000 employees began. Overall, the initiative
introduced growth mindset as a way of working at
Telenor by revamping the company’s performance
management process and by introducing a
growth-minded language around innovation and
performance. Positive reinforcements and role-
modeling eorts continue to help embed growth
mindset behaviors so they can become habits. For
example, the CEO and CHRO make sure to use
growth mindset terminology in monthly townhall
meetings, and oce workers use growth-mindset-
related terms in meetings and conversations. Some
leaders sit at dierent desks every day to interact
with new colleagues, and managers have growth
mindset and strength-based conversations with
direct reports.
On the Telenor Campus learning platform,
employees can earn a growth mindset learning
badge20 and free access to further learning modules
or programs as a reward for completing various
20 A digital badge is a validated indicator of accomplishment that
can be earned in learning environments. Source: Carey, Kevin (April 8,
2012). “A Future Full of Badges”. The Chronicle of Higher Education.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
levels of online self-study. So far, about 8,500
employees worldwide have taken advantage of the
six short learning modules that are also accessible on
mobile devices, and earned a growth mindset badge,
with the average time spent per learner at 1.2 hours.
In addition to learning and habit-formation eorts,
Telenor is also embedding growth mindset into
team development initiatives, executive leadership
programs, talent reviews, and high-potential
assessment approaches. For example, team
members work to recognize demonstrated fixed
or growth mindset behaviors in themselves and
others and discuss them with others, they apply
growth mindset principles to dilemma and conflict
resolution, and they build action plans for how
they can better support one another. The executive
leadership program includes workshops in which
leaders enjoy labeling exercises of fixed and growth
mindset behaviors and complete surveys about
the topic. Talent reviews for leadership readiness
include assessments and questions regarding
growth mindset, whereby behavioral questions
gauge for demonstrated behaviors of candidates,
and evidence for team development and conflict
resolution inspired by growth mindset.
Telenor’s growth mindset work is most visible in
two of the company’s work streams: innovation
eorts and people dialogue process — the
regular and frequent performance management
conversations managers have with their employees.
First, Telenor’s talent team reports that monthly
dialogues between managers and employees are
perceived as more meaningful by employees and
that growth-mindset-related language is being
used and practiced regularly. In terms of innovation,
the term “working red” was invented, symbolizing
the new ways of failing fast and learning from it,
rapid prototyping, and focusing on learning rather
than just achieving end results.21
21 Brekke, S . (n.d.). Changing pace: Gearing up for a digital shift. In
Telenor Group. Retrieved October 8, 2018, from https://ww w.telenor.
Telenor aims to be a digital frontrunner,
taking a clear lead in developing and
adapting new technology.
Sigve Brekke, President and CEO, Telenor Group
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
There is no way back.
Nobody is untouched. It is
almost incredible that just
ten years ago, our phones
were primarily used for
talking. Glance over your
shoulder on the bus and
you realize that time has
passed: the device most
of us keep in our hands
for large parts of our day is
much more than a phone.
For many youth, it’s hardly a
device for actual talking.
Sigve Brekke, President and CEO,
Telenor Group, on the rapid pace of digital transformation
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
As the foundational culture attribute at Microsoft,
growth mindset has been a critical focus of the
company’s culture transformation. CEO Satya
Nadella sparked the tech giant’s cultural refresh
with a new emphasis on continuous learning
four years ago.22 With his sponsorship, the talent
team has since worked meticulously on enabling
growth-oriented business priorities, employees’
behavioral habits, and organizational systems for
its workforce of 131,000 employees worldwide.23
Digital transformation made clear that a state
of perpetual learning would be necessary for
employees at all levels. In Nadella’s words, this
strategic reorientation would require going from
being a group of “know-it-alls” to a group of
Inspired by Professor Carol Dweck, Nadella and
Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft CHRO, along with
the senior leadership team, determined that
growth mindset would become the foundation
22 Vander Ark, T. (2018, April 18). Hit Refresh: How A Growth Mindset
Culture Tripled Microsoft’s Value. In Forbes. Retrieved from https://
23 Facts About Microsoft (n.d.). In Microsoft. Retrieved September 17,
2018, from
of Microsoft’s desired-toward culture. A range of
approaches have since been taken to initiate and
drive eorts for long-term change, starting with
engaging senior leaders to talk about and role
model growth mindset, employee-awareness
campaigns to drive growth mindset adoption, and
ongoing measurement of how the employees
experience growth mindset in the company.
For example, interactive online modules with
rich storytelling and multimedia were created
for employees to learn about growth mindset.
Conversation guides were built for managers
to enable meaningful exchanges about what
growth mindset behaviors look like in team
settings. Leaders also engage in storytelling to
give examples for growth mindset behaviors.
Successes with demonstrated growth mindset
behaviors are celebrated as reinforcements of
growth mindset habits in the workplace. Various
employee engagement and training solutions
like games, quizzes, lending libraries with
curated books, mobile empathy museum, and
environmental creative assets were developed
to engage employees around growth mindset
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
One of the most essential eorts was developing
Microsoft leadership principles, in partnership with
NLI, with the intent of engaging everyone in the
company – from senior executives to new hires –
in building growth mindset habits, processes, and
environment into everyday culture experience at
The talent team also operationalized growth
mindset in processes and practices. Growth
mindset principles have been embedded in
learning, team development and performance
management processes,25 and have expanded to
talent review and succession planning practices.26
For example, in addition to creating clarity on
meaning of growth mindset, managers also are
operationalizing growth mindset during business
24 Rock, D. (2018, February 22). Tell Employees What You Want
Them to Strive for (in as Few Words as Possible). In Harvard Business
Review. Retrieved September 17, 2018, from
25 Derler, A. (In press.) NeuroLeadership Institute.
26 Emond, L. (2018, July 16). Microsof t CHRO: A Conversation
About Succession Management. In Gallup Workplace. Retrieved
September 17, 2018, from
reviews, as well as through goal setting with their
teams. Since Microsoft no longer has a system of
ratings and rankings, the current performance and
development process focuses on providing clarity
around what employees are now being rewarded
for: the demonstrated abilities to build on and
to contribute to the success of others are now
equally essential to attaining performance goals.
Last but certainly not least, Microsoft sees
continuous measurement as invaluable to its
culture change. Daily pulse surveys constantly
collect metrics of employee experiences of
growth mindset all together, more detailed items
such levels of risk aversion, visibly recognizing and
learning from failure, or support in unlocking one’s
ability. Favorability of growth mindset experience
measurement has been trending between 78%
and 80%, and it has been proven as the primary
driver of the rest of the Microsoft culture attributes
of customer obsessed, diverse and inclusive, one
Microsoft, and making a dierence.
Source: Microsoft, 2018
Is this a...
Leads to a desire to
look smart and therefore
a tendency to:
Give up easily
See failures as fruitless
or worse
Ignore useful negative
Feel threatened by the
success of others
Avoid challenges
Leads to a desire to
learn and therefore
a tendency to:
Persist in the face of setbacks
See failures as essential
to mastery
Learn from criticism
Find lessons and inspiration
in the success of others
Embrace challenges
with agility
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
If we want the growth
mindset to happen in real
life, we have to create the
conditions for it and modify
them as we learn what works
and what doesn’t. We have
found that these conditions
dier depending on where we
are in the evolution, moving
from awareness to adoption
to advocacy of growth
mindset. This work is iterative,
data-informed, and ongoing.
Senior Director,
Organizational Development at Microsoft
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
When Carol Dweck was studying grade schoolers in
the 1980s, she noticed a startling contrast between
how kids reacted to diculties. Some shrank from
them, while others jumped at them. She recalls
one animated 10-year-old who, when faced with
a particularly demanding puzzle, smacked his lips,
rubbed his hands together, and declared, “I love a
challenge!” It was a strange experience for Dweck
— she had always thought people either could or
couldn’t cope with failure. Yet among these kids,
some loved it. How strange!
Since then, Dweck, has become perhaps the most
influential motivation scientist of her generation. In
2014, NLI started working with Heidi Grant, a protégé
of Dweck’s who is now our Chief Science Ocer.
NLI published the first paper on the organizational
applications of growth mindset in 2016. With this
interview, the edited transcript of which you’ll find
below, Grant and NLI are going back to the source.
Read on to discover the biggest obstacles leaders
have for putting the mindset into practice, how
to resolve the tension between being growth-
and results-oriented, and which popular
figure best exemplifies growth mindset to
Dweck. Spoiler alert: It might get revolutionary.
NLI: What’s the largest obstacle you see people — and
especially leaders — have in regard to implementing
growth mindset?
Carol: There are several roadblocks. First and
foremost, the leaders have to understand a
growth mindset fully, deeply, and accurately. It’s
not just about eort. It’s not just about telling
people to have a growth mindset. It’s not just
about people declaring they have a growth
mindset when they don’t fully understand it.
The leaders have to really ask themselves, do
they believe in their own growth — not just other
people’s need to grow. Then, do they believe that
everyone in their organization has the capacity to
grow? Do they believe there’s talent everywhere
in the organization that needs to be fostered and
needs to be acknowledged as it emerges?
So, do they really hold a growth mindset? That’s
step number one. Step number two is how do
they disseminate it throughout the organization.
That’s critical. It’s not just about words or
about teaching it or holding a workshop.
It’s about having practices and policies that
embody a growth mindset and that really tell
people in the organization, “We mean this.”
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
A lot of people say, “Oh yeah, my organization talks about a growth
mindset, but if someone fails, they get the ax.” These organizations
don’t really believe it — they talk it. The practices are what really
tell people: “We mean business. Our business is about growth for
individuals, growth for teams.”
How will the organization, in turn, change?
If the change is successful, it will no longer be a culture of genius where
the pre-identified geniuses get all the perks and everyone else is just
support sta.
I’d like to see an honest, constructive evaluation process where the
manager and the employee talk together as frequently as possible
about what they’re really happy with and what needs to be improved
— and how they’re going to work together to do that. It’s about both
parties understanding the growth mindset concept deeply and creating
practices that bring it to life within the organization.
What else?
Another practice is the emphasis on collaboration. In the lone-genius
model you want the credit. You don’t want your team to get the
credit. That doesn’t make you a genius. But in a more growth mindset
organization, then there can be a real team process that leads to
breakthroughs — with less concern about ownership.
I think it’s so fascinating that this insight about how some children
approach challenges has generalized into adulthood. And many phases of
adulthood: from romantic satisfaction to conflict resolution to, of course,
professional success. How did you think of the growth of growth mindset?
I credit my graduate students. We worked together feverishly to
develop the idea, to study the idea rigorously, and then to look at all of
the implications and consequences of it. We found that the mindsets
fostered dierent beliefs about eort and dierent beliefs about
setbacks; we saw how a growth mindset could foster more challenge-
seeking and persistence. We called this whole framework a “meaning
system”. Growth mindset was at the core of these dierent beliefs
and action tendencies and could really orient you toward eective
achievement or not.
Then we said, wait a minute. You don’t just have mindsets about
your own intelligence; you could have mindsets about any attribute
of yourself. You can have mindsets about other people, you can have
mindsets about groups. Do groups have an inherent fixed nature? Or,
can their characteristics be changed and develop?
Over time, starting with the really well-established core that we
researched extensively, we built it out. Slowly but surely the tentacles
reached out in many, many new directions. None of it was me alone.
It was all with my amazing students. We, as a group, believed we could
figure out anything if we really worked at it and discussed it and did the
research and then discussed some more and did more research.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Frankly, one of the most striking or poignant findings is how having a
fixed mindset about others is linked to stereotyping and endorsing more
prejudice. That’s kind of a hard message to deliver, right?
It’s one thing to say people may be holding themselves back, but its
another thing to suggest that they may be holding other people back.
That’s really hard.
However, some of my former students who are creating a program
for teachers noticed that after they taught a growth mindset, then the
teachers were more open to talking about inclusion and exploring
some of the ways in which they might not have been as inclusive in
the past.
It can give permission for more sensitive conversations.
Some diversity training appropriately gets people to recognize that
they have implicit biases, but then — this is another line of research
we’ve done — it becomes very important for people to know that
their prejudice can be addressed and decreased. They can do this
by associating with other groups and learning more about them by
asking questions, sharing experiences, and so on. People may need to
learn not just that they are biased but also that their prejudice can be
reduced in order to reach out and feel comfortable in interactions with
members of other groups.
Is there a public figure that, to you, epitomizes growth mindset?
There are many, but my favorite at the moment is George Washington.
Why’s that?
He embodied a focus on learning. He was not highly educated, but he
read everything. He did everything to increase his military experience
and expertise and to lead the revolution eectively in the face of
overwhelming odds. He learned everything he could to guide the
country through those early, uncertain years when there was lots of
contention and no precedents. He cared about his reputation and his
legacy, to be sure, but above all he was focused on the greater good
and the survival of the country.
He embodied great leadership in the following way: He didn’t just
develop himself — he set the stage for developing everyone around
him and developing a country that was based on an idea, an idea about
liberty and equality.
How can you encourage a growth mindset in employees while still
expecting results? I think when you think about it philosophically there’s a
fundamental dissonance there. How do you think about that?
I don’t think there has to be a dissonance there. It’s the same in
education. You want kids to learn deeply and eectively and be able
to demonstrate their learning. It’s not about just sitting around and
expending eort and enjoying a process. It’s got to move; it’s got to
lead to some result. And so too in business you don’t want everyone
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
having such a great learning experience but nothing is happening in
terms of innovations, successful implementation of innovation, and
the bottom line.
So, I don’t see any necessary conflict. A growth mindset can be used
in the pursuit of innovation and the success of the company. The
idea is that with people open-mindedly learning, collaborating, and
experimenting, a company can move more eectively into the future,
compared to, say, a company where you have a cadre of people
competing with each other to be the genius.
Let’s say you have a team of five people, some of whom exhibit growth
mindset and others fixed. Do you think it’s OK to reward somebody
demonstrating a growth mindset?
I think a growth mindset could be one factor that’s taken into account
if it shows itself in important ways — for example, if you feel that the
people who have demonstrated a growth mindset have really led the
team, have really infused the team with energy and direction.
You’re not rewarding their “having” a growth mindset; you’re rewarding
the fact that they implemented it in a way that benefited the team and
led to good business practice or outcomes.
If other members of the team lean toward more of a fixed mindset,
you certainly don’t want to penalize them for having this belief. But
you may be concerned if they are not good team members — if they
want to take undue credit, if they put other people down, so they can
feel smart, if they cut corners to get ahead and in other ways are not
contributing to the success of the team.
What I hear you saying repeatedly is helping other people succeed.
Yes, absolutely. Believing that others can develop their abilities, and
helping them do that, is a core feature of a growth mindset. And it’s
very important for talent development within a company.
We see that a lot with companies. Where they say, We want to be more
innovative. We want to be more agile. We’re going to introduce growth
mindset. We’re going to make it a priority. We’re going to have leaders
talking about it. We’re going to introduce this vocabulary and encourage
it, and by some miracle the culture will shift. But there’s very little emphasis
on what are the behaviors of a person with a growth mindset. Right?
Right. And also, what does it mean for company practices and policies?
What do you actually do dierently, right?
What do you do dierently as an organization? And what do you want
your people to do dierently? In education and business, growth
mindset talk is not going to create much when all the policies, all the
reward systems, stay the same.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Can you tell me about what led you to studying motivation. Where did you
think this research was going to lead you?
My first work examined how kids coped with setbacks. If I really trace
it back, it was a personal interest. Because although I had always been
pretty successful as a student, I didn’t want to do anything too hard
or too challenging because it was so important for me to be and look
I trace it back to my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Wilson, who seated us
around the room in IQ order. So the whole goal of your life was to be
smart — to succeed and keep your top seat. One day a new girl walked
into the room in the middle of the year. And instead of saying, oh, she
looks nice — maybe she’ll be a great friend — I thought, if she takes my
seat, I’ll be very unhappy.
A world was created in which being smart meant you were a person of
value. And yet, at some level, even in this classroom I knew this didn’t
make sense. I knew the people in the other seats and they were great
students and great people, but the teacher treated them as though they
weren’t worthy. I think I was researching, at some level, the legacy of
Mrs. Wilson — her negative eects on students at the top and students
not at the top.
Are there other mindsets that you think about and that you think are
important professionally or even personally? We, in this conversation, have
talked a lot about growth mindset and fixed mindset of course. But are
there other sorts of mindsets that you think are germane and we should
be cognizant of?
Yes, I do think there are other important mindsets. For example, is the
world basically a good place with well-meaning people? Or is the world
basically a bad place full of danger? That is a general stance toward the
world and the people in it that can have a profound eect on what you
think, feel, and do. That’s just one example.
I’m struck by the parallels in developmental and organizational psychology.
Do you see similar patterns in upbringing or management style between
people with growth mindset in a family setting or company culture?
I think that’s a very important analogy. And I think what happens is
that authority figures tell people how to think about the “organization”
they’re in — whether it’s a family, classroom, or company. How it
operates. What is valued and important. What your place in that
organization is. So yes, I think there are patterns of interactions that
can be echoed at each of these levels that are telling people vital things
about the world they’re in and about themselves in that world.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
If you’re doing growth mindset right, things
are going to get uncomfortable
Science has repeatedly shown us that brains like
fluency: the sensation of readily understanding an
idea, smoothly performing an exercise, or otherwise
comfortably “being good at” what needs to get done.
But here’s the thing: Doing only what you’re already
good at is classic fixed mindset. Staying within your
comfort zone feels fluent, but it inhibits growth. That’s
how the comforts of fixed mindset can keep us stuck
in place — we avoid the stretch goal or the sensitive
conversation that would enable growth.
We saw how easy it is to have a fixed mindset about
growth mindset itself in our interviews. On hearing
about the idea, people immediately want to know
how “good at” growth mindset they are, rather than
recognizing that there’s always room for improvem ent.
The journey will often turn into something of a roller
coaster: Learners will buy in to growth mindset, get
excited about the new concept, and then realize that
there are parts of their lives where they hold a fixed
mindset. Then they realize that their mindsets, too,
can be remolded.
Growth mindset asks you to become an expert in
leaving your comfort zone, again and again. If it feels
uncomfortable, you’re most likely doing it right.
What to do when you spot a fixed mindset
We all carry fixed and growth mindsets about all sorts
of abilities, from cooking to public speaking.
When you stumble over a fixed mindset in your
thinking, you can take action.
Here’s a simple plan:
Understand that this is normal. It’s virtually
impossible to not care about proving that you
have ability — to yourself and others. It’s human.
Recognize the good news. You have a choice:
You can choose to think dierently and focus
more on your growth. But habits take time to
Be patient with yourself when trying to build this
new habit. It won’t be an overnight change.
Shift your thinking. A phrase that you can rely on
— a mantra of sorts — can help. Remind yourself
that “It’s not about being good — its about getting
better.” Or that this uncomfortable experience is
“an experiment, an opportunity to be creative.”
Remember: It’s not about proving yourself to others.
Instead, improve yourself.
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Make certain that your systems enable the right
Creating awareness through teaching and learning
about growth mindset is insucient to create a
growth mindset culture in organizations. To enable
employees to develop and sustain growth mindset
behaviors in their daily work, organizations need
to create continuity supporting these behaviors.
Systems and processes cannot stand in contrast
to the desirable growth mindset behaviors. Ideally,
growth mindset components can be seen and felt
by employees throughout the talent cycle, which
also requires continuous improvements of existing
Takeaway: Align your priorities, habits, and systems.
Like a head of talent planning and performance
at an American retailer told us: “You’ve got to
find where the principles of growth mindset fit
into your HR infrastructures and embed them.”
Ensure top leaders’ engagement and commitment
Gaining support from top leaders is a critical
component of sustainable growth mindset
initiatives. To employees, this shows commitment
for change from the top and creates additional
meaning for how growth mindset can support an
important strategic change eort.
And of course, HR and talent practitioners who are
supported by top leaders can implement the new
growth mindset culture components more easily.
Takeaway: Figure out who stands behind growth
mindset and be persistent with the rest. A founder
and CEO of a management consultancy observed as
much: “If you can find a leader that’s truly passionate
about this, and truly good at this, then come
alongside that leader and help them figure it out.”
Measure, track, and measure again
Starting with the end in mind is invaluable with
any initiative, including growth mindset. Once you
have your growth mindset goals in mind, then
you can establish the metrics that measure their
Tracking of behavioral changes and how they relate
to strategic change objectives can be done only if
it’s known what is important to track and improve.
Ideally, the talent metrics that are determined to
track the impact of growth mindset eorts are tied
Here are some first steps to get
growth mindset culture going
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
to the organization’s overall strategy. Regardless
of content, continual measurement that can
serve improvement and course correction is most
Be clear and intentional about growth mindset
Once the concept of a growth mindset has been
taught and people are adopting and using it in their
daily work, they begin to attach their own meaning
to it. Depending on their organization’s guidance
for this process, the meaning-making process can
more or less be aligned with overall objectives and
Since organizations introduce growth mindset
to enable and support specific strategic change
objectives in mind, and the meaning-making
process can be an important impact accelerator,
guiding it is important. Research participants of
our study suggest providing a vision and direction
for the workforce as to what growth mindset can
mean for their organization.
Takeaway: Make time to personalize the meaning
of growth mindset to your organization. For
example, Satya Nadella’s com ment on Microsoft:
“We want to be not a ‘know-it-all’ but ‘learn-it-
all’ organization.”27
27 Majdan, K., & Wasowski, M. (2017, April 20). We sat down with
Microsoft’s CEO to discuss the past, present and future of the
company. In Business Insider. Retrieved October 8, 2018, from
© 2018 Neuro Leadership In stitute
Between May 1st and June 8th of 2018, a team
consisting of an industry researcher and an NLI
consultant conducted 21 60-minute interviews
with talent practitioners. The companies were
identified by internal client- facing colleagues,
and by self-identification based on a LinkedIn post
describing the research program. All interviews
were highly structured and lasted 60 minutes per
Interviews were all recorded, and confidentiality
about shared content guaranteed to interviewees.
Five inter views were re moved from fin al quantitat ive
data analysis as they didn’t meet the standards of
information that was sought. The final sample
(n) for the data analysis was 16 organizations.
A total of 13 public companies, two private
companies, and one university were represented.
Revenue ranged from $2.5 billion to $122 billion
USD, with workforces ranging from 2,800 to
313,000 employees. Industries included energy,
pharmaceuticals, food processing, health care,
beverages, retail, higher education, technology,
insurance, financial services, telecommunications,
and a conglomerate.
Research methodology
The NeuroLeadership Institute (NLI) synthesizes
neuroscience research into actionable insights to
help organizations be more eective. Our oerings
span three practice areas: Culture and Leadership,
Performance, and Diversity and Inclusion. NLI
partners with leading companies and organizations
in all sectors across the globe, with operations in
North America, Europe, A sia-Pacific, South America,
and Africa. Visit us at
... A growth mindset is beneficial for improving operational excellence, enabling lean management, and fostering a more inventive culture within a multinational company.38% of companies believe that the main driver behind a growth mindset is digital transformation. There are several reasons why companies adopt a growth mindset [9]. They include enhancing employees' ability to adapt to change, fostering a belief in continuous learning and growth, creating an atmosphere that encourages risk-taking and learning from failure, and promoting higher levels of cooperation. ...
The human desire for growth can be clearly seen in the realm of career prospects in organizations. People want to be given greater opportunities with the potential to advance within a firm which is much appreciated by both prospective and the current workforce. The top talent may be found internally, but if the organization lacks cross-functional visibility, these talents may go unrecognized. Shifting from vertical to an aspiration-based growth mindset becomes critical for creating aspiration-based talent mobility. Sometimes people may be more concerned about titles and designations as compared to the roles and job descriptions. This study examines the role of career conversations in creating cross-functional mobility of talent based on their aspirations in Covid-19. The objective of such conversations is to carve a path beyond just hiring or promotion. It becomes important in the light of lack of career growth, attrition and engagement in the organizations, while aligning organizational goals with employee career goals. This study will be valuable to the managers, coaches and mentors, as well as policymakers in the organizations.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any references for this publication.