Saturday, January 21, 2012

Growing your mind.

Brain Coral
I have been looking into some research that Standford psychologist Carol Dweck has done into achievement and success and what it has to do with how you think about yourself. She describes people as having basically two mindsets, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. These two mindsets can greatly affect how you approach problem solving and how likely you are to take risks and potentially go about innovating. Your frame of mind can greatly affect your self esteem and affect your likely success at a task or venture. Mindset is something very insightful and worth considering if you are in any task that involves some risk and possibility of failure.

Looking firstly at the fixed mindset, it is described as simply having a point of view that talent and intelligence are fixed traits that cannot be changed. These types of people spend their time and effort documenting their abilities and talents instead of expanding them, they are primarily looking to prove themselves to others. They believe that talent leads to success. This mindset is formed through interactions with other people that respond to situations like testing, with attitudes about success and winning. It can be an outside influence such as a parent, boss or teacher, that creates this feeling and mindset in the individual or something that a particular person feels inside themselves that is reinforced through repetition. In children this mindset is formed with statements like "Good job, you are very smart" are more likely to develop a fixed mindset. This mindset is of course can be great when things are working and all is performing well, the problem really arises when something goes wrong or fails to meet expectations. The negative feelings that emerge can be inhibiting to later activities, as the fear of failure can make someone become more risk averse.

A growth mindset, on the other-hand, is someone that believes their abilities can be improved and expanded through practice, experimentation and physically performing tasks. In this mindset, learning and acceptance of failure is critical to success. This mindset has been shown by Carol, to increase motivation and productivity. This mindset is encouraged through positive reinforcement of the effort that has been put into a project rather than the results. In children this can be encouraged with words like "Good job, you worked very hard", this can make all the difference in how they percieve themselves if things go wrong, and willing they are to take risks later. What can be learnt from what went wrong is seen as something valuable to gain from what is done as well as what worked. This mindset, of course, is exactly the mindset you would need as a creative thinker, where often experimentation and discovery into unknowns will produce failures as well as successes.

The great thing about these mindsets is that they are not born into us, they are something learnt, and as a result we can alter our mindsets to the more positive growth mindset with an attention to how we perceive ourselves and what we do. It just takes practice in how we deal with failure and how we learn from mistakes. In my role as a creative director, this work is very insightful and valuable to how I approach projects with an open  mind to the risks and possibilities of some failure. It helps make sure the team understands that things can go wrong in development, especially if our assumptions are wrong. If I am wrong   then this is okay, what really matters to me and the team is what we can learn. What is most valuable is to evaluate what went wrong and how it can be improved towards a successful outcome. The ability to make and learn from mistakes, without retribution,  is what differentiates the successful companies and projects from the doomed to never work ones that will probably never innovate. Even beyond the practical use of this mindset in work, it is a good way to consider all aspects of you life and journey, with openness to unexpected opportunities and adventure. Sometimes following an unexpected path can lead to amazing new discoveries, that just needs a willingness to adapt and keep a mind that wants to grow.

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