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Mindset: Not Just for School Kids

Post by Linda Thrasher, Himle Rapp's Corporate Practice Leader. You can follow her on Twitter, @LindaKThrasher

With the start of the new school year, one of my colleagues remarked that it feels likes the light switch has flipped back on – not just in our schools, but as the “summer is over” sentiment hits the workplace. 

I couldn't help but reflect on the light switch comment as I participated in a recent “Back to School” session for my children and all of us parents reengaged in the school process. While the teachers talked extensively about the curriculum (a.k.a. the “what”), they spent as much time talking about the “how” of what students learn and the importance of mindset – emphasizing the need to take risks, demonstrate courage and practice new skills repeatedly. As I listened to the discussion in the school gym, it occurred to me how applicable these comments are for the business world. Do we take time at the beginning of our new fiscal years to re-anchor ourselves and discuss the importance of taking risks, showing courage and practicing our skills? 

A well-known Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck writes about the importance of these attributes in her book, Mindset. The book addresses a variety of issues, including how to properly praise children for their efforts, not their innate talents. But the biggest takeaway for me from a business perspective is the difference between deploying a fixed or growth mindset in the workplace.

As Dweck’s book points out, with a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, such as intelligence, are fixed traits and not capable of being developed. In contrast, people with a growth mindset believe their talents are just a starting point and that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. Dweck points out that the latter view creates a love for learning and resilience essential for great accomplishment.

While the business world or services profession is not necessarily a fulltime petri dish for experimentation on education theories, there’s a lot to be said about being willing to get out of our comfort zone and engage with a growth mindset. As one client recently told me, “our new CEO reminds us that we need to fail early and fail often,” explaining that unless we test ideas or innovations – even prematurely – we’ll never get better.

So whether we’re students or not, the ideas of Dweck and my own children's teachers are hardly elementary. Cheers to showing courage, taking risks and utilizing a growth mindset.

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