Every now and then someone says to me “you are just so smart you can do anything” which really irks me. I know it is meant as a compliment but the logic of the statement seems to discount all the hard work I’ve done as well as the reality of failure which has happened before and will certainly happen again.
For a long time, I could not articulate why this bugged me so but the work of Carol Dweck and the idea of mindset provides the framework I’ve needed to explain it. Dweck is a researcher at Stanford and based on twenty plus years of research has identified two distinct mindsets – fixed and growth. For a good overview of the concept, listen to an interview with Carol Dweck here.
From her website:
- People with a fixed mindset believe basic qualities, like intelligence and talent, are fixed traits. They spend time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. In addition they think talent alone creates success—without effort.
- People with a growth mindset believe that abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work and that brains and talent are just the starting point. They also love learning and possess the resilience necessary to accomplish great things.
Someone who says “you are so smart, you can do anything” likely has a fixed mindset and attributes success to a fixed trait. They believe people have it or they don’t. People with a growth mindset believe talent can be developed, know they can improve, learn from mistakes, and almost get a buzz from the challenge.
I’ve been thinking a lot about mindset because last week I participated in New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. The crowd was a great mix – old, young, black, white, Asian, Hispanic and pretty much every other facet of diversity out there. I talked to artists and fashion designers and musicians as well as attorneys and MBAs and yes, even academics! A VERY diverse group indeed. Monday’s keynote speaker, Walter Isaacson, traced the history of entrepreneurship in NOLA and eloquently pointed out its relationship to diversity and creativity.
NOEW brought many diverse types together but we were all connected by a common mindset – a growth mindset. People were there to learn, develop, and connect. Some had failed before, many knew failure was a distinct possibility, but everyone was on fire about their idea. It was great to be part of such a gathering.
One final thought – mindset can change. Someone with a fixed mindset when young can absolutely develop a growth mindset later in life.
Would love to hear what you think about mindset.