Are you out of your mind(set)? How to build a business culture for growth

Richard Reid
Staff should be encouraged to see setbacks as feedback, rather than failure (Source: Getty)

We often talk about mindsets in the context of our personal lives. But have you ever considered that organisations also exhibit particular mindsets? Indeed, they could be having an impact on your attitude in the workplace and the way you perceive your colleagues.

Chances are that some of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your personal life have required you to reflect on setbacks and overcome challenges. However, you would arguably have not chosen to undergo those experiences voluntarily. This is because we are hard-wired to seek certainty and avoid risk or discomfort. It is part of our survival instinct.

Business are also comprised of people, and so are no less immune to this natural aversion to risk.

It’s a concept known as the “fixed mindset”, and the best companies can overcome it by embracing a culture geared for growth.

The growth mindset

The benefits of a “growth mindset” are legion. According to research conducted by Carol Dweck at Stanford University, people working in growth mindset orientated companies are 47 per cent more likely to say that their colleagues are trustworthy, and 34 per cent more likely to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the organisation.

Read more: Firing up innovation in Japan

Firms which exhibit a growth mindset are recognisable by certain cultural characteristics. Their employees are 65 per cent more likely to say that the organisation supports risk taking and 49 per cent more likely to claim that their organisation fosters innovation.

Feedback not failure

So how can an organisation develop a growth mindset?

First, it is about encouraging staff to see setbacks as feedback rather than failure. Many organisations perpetuate a blame culture, which seeks to chastise or find scapegoats. This promotes fear and diminishes creativity and responsibility. Organisations with a fixed mindset tend not to learn from their errors, while those with a growth mindset strive for mastery based on reflection and understanding of errors.

It is very easy for companies to become complacent and lose their leading edge. Goals which prioritise progress over an absolute end are far more conducive to promoting a growth mindset culture. In other words, a firm should have improvement at its heart, rather than an urge to be the best.

The value of evaluations

In many cases, fixed mindsets are often so deeply ingrained within an organisation that they remain largely unrecognised and unchallenged. As with most personal challenges, change starts with heightened self-awareness.

Performance evaluation processes have an invaluable part to play in influencing and motivating individual employees to embrace a growth mindset more wholeheartedly.

When employees are scored against others in their peer group, they are far more likely to adopt a fixed mindset and become more competitive and risk-averse.

Read more: How to tackle poor employee performance

In contrast, when employees are measured against themselves and their own past performance, the emphasis shifts to progress and improvement. Organisations which choose to adopt this latter approach help to reduce the perceived threat often associated with the evaluation process, and encourage staff to become more creative and to embrace a healthy level of risk in their work.

Aside from affording employees a better opportunity to fulfill their own potential, self-comparing evaluations are more likely to nurture a culture of collaboration between individuals, not to mention greater commitment and innovation.

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