Five Business Benefits of a Growth Mindset

Five Business Benefits of a Growth Mindset

Five Business Benefits of a Growth Mindset

We all tell ourselves stories. These days a popular narrative going around is “I’m just not very good at change.” While that might be true, it doesn’t mean the final chapter has been written. As a matter of fact, the narrative behind The Great Resignation suggests millions of people believe a different outcome is possible because they believe they have the power to get better, to improve. And as the title suggests: grow.

Unfortunately, at the very same time, stress and burnout are rampant and taking a catastrophic toll on workers and employers. Some surveys suggest that as many as three-quarters of the workforce might be affected. Even the most secure and accomplished people are experiencing doubt.

What is it then that inspires some people to flourish and pivot, while others languish and even withdraw?

Before we take a deep dive into the benefits that a growth mindset provides, let me introduce you to Carol Dweck. For decades, Dweck has been studying why some people succeed while others, who are equally talented, do not.

For example, at some point in our lives, we have all likely said something like, “I could never get on stage and give a speech” or “I’d like to apply for that job but I’ll never get it.” Or how about this one: “I’m too old to learn that?”


The funny thing is that it’s not just introverts, high-school grads, front-line workers, and Baby Boomers who say those things. It’s extroverts, Ivy League graduates, senior executives, Millennials, and Gen Z too!

Dweck, a Stanford University professor of psychology, wanted to figure out how it was possible that people with the same abilities, traits, and opportunities could respond so differently to the same future. After years of study, she discovered that our mindsets play a crucial role in this process.

She found that, for example, when students were praised for being smart or talented, they performed worse on tests than those praised for their effort. Kids praised for being smart believed “smart” was a gift, something they were born with. She called that “gift” the “fixed mindset.” In response, they stopped working hard and avoided any challenge that might make them look bad. Alternatively, students who received praise based on their effort and were encouraged to learn from their mistakes developed a “growth mindset.”

It didn’t take long for Dweck’s work to find its way into many different areas of life, including the business world, which has struggled for years at hiring top talent who consistently fell short of expectations.

Here’s just one example. While organizations worldwide spend more than $360 billion on leadership development, 75 percent of these organizations rated their programs not very effective. “Why aren’t companies getting more bang for the leadership development buck? A recent study suggests they overlook a specific attribute that is foundational to how leaders think, learn, and behave. You guessed it: mindset!

But growth mindset isn’t just for leaders. We are living in never-normal times. Everyone from the front-line worker to teachers and students are being asked to do things they never thought they would have to do. Sadly, there are a lot of people who believe they just can’t adapt to using an app to order groceries or deposit a check, working remote, and collaborating through Zoom. It’s not that people with a growth mindset don’t feel overwhelmed at times. But those with a fixed mindset get stuck more often and stay stuck longer. It’s not that they can’t adapt. They just don’t feel like they can and/or fear making a mistake or looking bad or “dumb” in front of a friend or co-worker. Adversity and uncertainty paralyzes them.

Why Does This Matter in The Business World?

In the good old days, IQ often determined which career doors could open up. But as our economic dependence on manual labor and manufacturing shifted toward service and knowledge workers, EQ, or emotional intelligence, became a key factor in how quickly and high up the career ladder you could climb. But here we are in a post-pandemic era of Never Normal, and IQ and EQ isn’t enough. It’s AQ, or adaptability quotient, that has become a reliable predictor of employability and dealing with uncertainty.
What is AQ? Simply put, it measures how quickly and efficiently one can adapt to change, reskill, and learn new things. Because perpetual change and uncertainty seem to be the only certainties in life, AQ has become an essential skill for everyone from the production floor to the C-Suite.
You might be wondering what AQ has to do with a growth mindset. Learning new skills and changing our old, but comfortable, behaviors have become non-negotiable factors, no matter how much experience you have or in what industry you’re working. But learning, letting go, and fixed mindset don’t always go hand-in-hand.
The good news is that research now reveals that growth mindset can be built and developed. Now that I hope you appreciate the importance of a growth mindset, let’s discuss five business benefits of the growth mindset.

The Five Business Benefits of a Growth Mindset

More Grit.

People with a growth mindset don’t give up easily. They persevere. They understand that failure is a possibility but don’t allow that to deter them from trying again and again. But let’s get one thing straight. Growth mindset isn’t a substitute for grit. We’ll still need to endure, perserve, and just grit it sometimes. However, without a growth mindset as its partner, grit just becomes doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result. And you know what that means!
For example, how many times did Elon Musk and SpaceX launch rockets crash before they successfully returned one to earth so they can launch it again? Were these crashes painful and expensive? YES. But the team didn’t quit. That’s grit. But they didn’t just didn’t forge forward and try again. Instead, they used each failed experience as a new starting point. As Helen Keller once said, “A bend in the road is not the end of road …unless you fail to make the turn.”

More Resilience.

Grit and perseverance may help you keep your eye on the prize but it’s not enough to keep you from feeling discouraged. Just look around. I’m sure it won’t take you long to identify someone you know – maybe even yourself – that just tried to keep his or her head down, do their work, and stay out of trouble. But sometimes life just rises up and smacks us in the face. It’s only human nature to get down on yourself every now and then, to allow a mistake to engulf our entire life. That’s exactly what happened to Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin when the three-time Olympic medalist and favorite to win again, failed to finish her signature events. Devastated by the setbacks, her immediate response was to “second guess the last 15 years, everything I thought I knew about my own skiing and slalom and racing mentality.” That’s when we need to call upon another one of those AQ abilities: resilience – the ability to get us out of a funk, to bounce back from disappointment and adversity. People with resilience can rebound after a setback plus do it quickly. Shiffrin got back on her skis just 2 days later to compete in another event. By now you might wonder if resilience is even possible without growth mindset. Is it even possible to get back up to try again, no matter the circumstances, if you didn’t believe you could get better, improve, and learn from the past?

Better Coaching.

Growth mindset opens the door to the possibility of being coached and mentored. As importantly, it encourages leaders to focus on others too. Coaches with a growth mindset see the experience as a 2-way opportunity to learn and grow. In comparison, people with a low growth mindset (aka fixed mindset) hate feedback. They take constructive criticism as a personal attack. They get defensive and push back. Fixed mindset coaches who coach other fixed mindset people run the risk of making insecurities even worse. Growth mindset leaders understand that the company’s success depends on the growth and development of its employees. They value insights and feedback not just from more experienced peers, but from direct reports and workers decades younger. Growth mindset opens the doors to mentor up or down. The fixed mindset manager, however, is often threatened by the young Millennial or Gen Z. The same goes for the young workers with a fixed mindset. With labor shortages growing and skill gaps increasing, upskilling and reskilling workers at all levels of an organization is essential. But without a spotlight on growth mindset, history will likely repeat itself as it did with the leadership development programs I mentioned earlier.

More Creativity.

Leaders with a growth mindset are always looking for new ways to challenge and improve their teams and themselves. They understand that there is no one right way, and even one best way to do things. That stands in sharp contrast to the recent past when following best practices dictated how nearly every decision was made. Yesterday presented a comfortable home for the fixed mindset. Today’s world requires a new playbook. With perpetual change and increasing complexity, problems have transformed into new dilemmas, many without precedence. Today’s best practices are not tried and tested but evolving and emerging solutions. Growing and thriving in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world requires continuous innovation and creative thinking. And neither are possible without a growth mindset.

Higher Emotional Intelligence

It won’t surprise many of you to learn that EQ, AQ, and growth mindset are inextricably intertwined. In fact, you might have already made the connection. The first step of building emotional intelligence, often called EQ, is self-awareness. But with the “I am who I am” fixed mindset attitude, it’s an instant EQ killer! Leaders with fixed mindsets love to focus and tout their strengths. Weaknesses are buried and rarely admitted which is ironic considering that showing your vulnerability and recognizing the need to improve as a leader takes courage. Because the fixed mindset leader believes you have it or you don’t, there is no reason for themto focus on improving emotional intelligence because it is what it is. Leaders with a growth mindset, on the other hand, are always looking to become better. They understand that they don’t know and can’t know everything especially in the era of Never Normal. Rather than fear the future journey, they aren’t threatened by it but embrace it.
Change can be freaking terrifying. But like it or not, our future will be filled with more uncertainty and frequent disruptions. Just staying the course will lead to frustration, disappointment, and stagnation. The good news is that you do not need to live your life at the mercy of change. You can make change work for you starting with developing a growth mindset. It’s time to reimagine your future. Try it. You’ll like it.