www.mindsetonline.com (website for my book)
Okay. Now we've seen how this works with middle-schoolers. But what have you got for us adults who may have become less flexible as we have aged?
It's never too late. For example, Peter Heslin, a researcher, developed a short program that taught business managers a growth mindset. He had them read an article and watch a video about how the brain changes with learning. They then drew evidence from their own experience:
What is an area in which you once had low ability, but can now perform quite well? How were you able to make this change?
Who is someone in your life who dramatically improved their performance? What did they do that enabled them to improve?
Who is a person in your life who is struggling with their performance in some area? What unhelpful beliefs or strategies does this person have that interferes with their performance? How could they improve?
He also told them: Sometimes it's hard to believe that certain people can really develop their abilities beyond a certain point. Think back and identify three different instances in which you observed someone learn to do something that you were convinced they could never do. In each case, why do you think their improvement occurred? In each case, what could have been the implication of your belief that they couldn't do it?
As people go through these exercises, they realize that they have plenty of personal evidence for a growth mindset. The managers in his studies did indeed adopt more of a growth mindset--they became more open to feedback and they became more eager to mentor others and help them develop.
Also, don't forget the mindset diagram! You can use it to catch yourself when you lapse into a fixed mindset--but even better, you can monitor your progress as your thinking changes from fixed-mindset fears (about challenges, setbacks, and people who are doing better than you are) to a growth-mindset welcoming and use of these opportunities.
You look at athletes, CEOs and teachers who clearly demonstrate one mindset or the other. Taking familiar figures and examining their behavior within this context is extremely helpful. Can you give us one or two of your favorite examples?
My favorite fixed-mindset example is Jeffrey Skilling, the CEO of Enron. Being "the smartest guy in the room" was the focus of his existence. When people didn't understand him, he mocked their intelligence rather than thinking that maybe he had something to learn. In fact, he created a whole culture at Enron in which everyone wanted to demonstrate their brilliance rather than work for the good of the company. For example, it was considered brilliant to bring about fancy but essentially bogus deals that they could put on the books. In the end, these deals brought about the company's demise.
At the opposite end of the continuum was Anne Mulcahy who took the reins of Xerox when it was in very hot water. Instead of acting as though the messiah had arrived to walk on that water, she went into a furious learning mode, studying up on every aspect of the company and making herself into the CEO Xerox needed to survive. For example, in a move that is all too rare for a CEO, she studied accounting so she could begin to understand how her decisions affected the bottom line. She ended up doing the impossible---turning what looked like a dinosaur into a dynamic, modern company. Later, one of the trustees said to her "I never thought I would be proud to have my name associated with this company again. I was wrong."
There are also so many growth mindset teachers (and coaches) I love. Not only do they make good on their belief that every student can learn--by getting amazing results with the most unpromising students-- but they are totally fascinated with the learning process itself. They are lifelong students of the learning process, and difficult students are just fodder for their own learning. What interested me so much was that many of them had old-fashioned and rather mundane teaching techniques. They didn't have some magic curriculum either. It was their belief that everyone can learn and their relentless (but caring) insistence that everyone do it, that seemed to produce their remarkable results.
Marva Collins is a great example of that. Let's pause here. In the second half of our interview, Carol has much more to say about how our mindset affects everything we do. Please join us!