There are a number of reasons why I liked the Knowing vs. Learning Business Week article by G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón, not only are they right on but they also touch on a very important topic: The reason why some people tolerate failure more than others.
Read the following four sentences and write down whether you agree or disagree with each of them:
- You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to really change that.
- No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially.
- You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are can’t really be changed.
- You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are.
If you agree with items 1 and 3, you’re someone who has a ’fixed mindset’. If you agreed with items 2 and 4, you tend to have a ‘growth mindset’.
What does this mean?
People with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities are basically static whereas people with a growth mindset believe abilities are like muscles that can be built up with practice. With a growth mindset you tend to accept more challenges despite the risk of failure, therefore if you are of a growth mindset you seek to get better all the time which usually means learning from mistakes.
What does this have to do with innovation?
As the authors of the article say, fear of failure makes growing, getting smarter, and becoming a learning organization all but impossible. So if we are to cultivate ‘innovativeness’ in our organizations we must first instill the growth mindset in our team and then work to change how we perceive failure by coming to a collective understanding that failure will happen along the way of any new initiative we pursue.
As Carol Dweck says: People will persevere only if they perceive failure as learning rather than as failing.
Growth vs. Fixed, which one are you?