Mindset Book Cover

This week we begin to get into the nitty gritty of the re-read of Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Today we are reflecting on Chapter 1, Mindsets, from the 2008 Ballantine Books Trade paperback edition version of the book.  First, we will summarize the chapter then we examine the concept from the point of view of an Agile coach.

Chapter 1 -Mindsets


Dweck’s research has identified two different mindsets. The two mindsets are called the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. Dweck defined the two mindsets through her research into why people succeed and fail.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities/attributes are carved in stone.  For example, someone with a fixed mindset believes that they are as smart or as innovative as they will ever be.  The belief that human basic attributes are fixed pushes people with a fixed mindset into an urgent need to prove those capabilities to themselves and others over and over.  For people with a fixed mindset anything, such as a challenge, that can cause them fail will challenge their perception of their capabilities and value.  For people with a fixed mindset proving their capability is a top priority.

People with a growth mindset believe that their capabilities and attributes are what they are right now and can change and grow through application and experience. Dweck suggests that capabilities and attributes are not boundless, but rather a person with a growth mindset does know where the upper boundary is. People with a growth mindset recognize that boundaries are unknown which generates a passion for learning.  Seeking and accepting challenges are a reflection of a passion for learning and pushing the boundaries of their capabilities.    Development is a priority for those with a growth mindset.

Dweck uses the attribute of self-insight to delineate the difference between those with fixed and growth mindsets.  People with a fixed mindset are apt to misestimate and misreport both their performance and ability. Those with a growth mindset are more accurate in perceiving their strengths and weaknesses.  When they fail, those with a growth mindset use failure as a learning experience.  The propensity of those with fixed mindset to explain away negative outcomes and to magnify their successes reduces any possibility for change generated from self-insight.

The last paragraph of the chapter establishes the central premise of the book: How can a mindset create establish boundaries that cause a person to either love or avoid a challenge? Or to believe that effort and resilience can generate growth rather reduce capabilities?

The chapter concludes with an exercise to help readers to understand whether they have a fixed or a growth mindset.  The two sets of questions in the exercise focus first on intelligence and then on personal qualities.  Take the exercise and share the results in the comments for Chapter 1.  Ask a friend or colleague to answer the questions then use the results to validate the attributes of a fixed and growth mindsets identified in Chapter 1.  Note – Remember that in the introduction that we stated that mindsets are not fixed.

Chapter 1 from a coach’s perspective.

Coaches are often involved in transforming organizations and/or facilitating teams and individuals.  Using the construct of mindsets during a transformation is useful.  Coaches often classify stakeholders using mindsets as an exercise when defining a change management plan.  The approach to change will be different for each type of mindset.  Stakeholders with a growth mindset will accept challenges while those with fixed mindset will respond better to calls that they perceive will be safe and make them seem successful.  These are two very different messages.

Using mindsets for coaching a team or to coach an individual provides a coach with a powerful starting point for predicting how individuals will act. For example as a manager and a leader over the years I have been amazed by employees that I had that would make no effort on their own to learn something new.  They only focused on what they were good at today.  They would fight any change tooth and nail that impacted their specialty area.  They had a fixed mind state.  These people were great at what they did but they could not be counted on to stretch.  Almost all teams are some mixture of fixed and growth minded members, knowing where team members fall in the mindset dichotomy can be useful when a coach provides advice on who should explore new ideas and who should focus on more repetitive tasks. In a similar vein, a leader that knows that a team is populated with one or the other mindset would be able to steer the right kind of work team based on their mindset.

Previous Entries of Mindset: