A “Growth Mindset” What is it?

I have a buzzword that is very hot right now, yet people rarely understand what it actually means. Today I want to talk about A “Growth Mindset” and what it is.

Humans are deeply pleased when their ideas come to fruition. They are even more pleased when their ideas make a difference, for example improving motivation, innovation, or productivity. With anything that becomes popular, there is often a consequence attached. In the case of a growth mindset, people distort ideas which affects their ability to reap the benefits.

I am a massive fan of Carol Dweck’ research, she is a highly regarded Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and the author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. She has conducted lots of research on “growth” versus “fixed” mindsets among individuals and within organizations.

So, let’s begin to understand these two constructs through the lens of Professor Dweck. In 2012 she describes a Growth Mindset as;

“The belief that an individual’s most basic abilities and skills can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point.”  

To briefly sum up her findings: Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset.

People with a growth mindset achieve more than those with a fixed mindset, who believe that talents are gifts. This is because they put more energy into learning instead of wasting time worrying about looking smart.

Companies that embrace a growth mindset, reported that employees felt more empowered and committed, this was because they received better organizational support through the encouragement of collaboration and innovation.

Now lets look at what a fixed mindset is according to Professor Dweck.

“The belief that an individual’s basic abilities and skills, their intelligence and their talents, are just fixed traits.” 

Her research also suggests that “people at primarily fixed-mindset companies report more of only one thing: cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race.” Harvard Business Review Nov 2014 Issue.

“Growth mindset” has become a buzzword in many major companies, even working its way into their mission statements. This is where I want to demystify this buzzword because often, I realise that people’s understanding of the idea is limited.

Publishing An Introduction to a Business Growth Mindset was my way of starting the conversation at the most basic level by introducing business people to the concept through an underlying six-step framework.

But for now, let’s look at three very common misconceptions that have surfaced from the research.

  1. I already have it, and I always have. 
  •  People confuse a growth mindset with being flexible, open-minded or having a positive outlook. This is referred to as the false growth mindset.
  • All people have a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets, the mixture is continually evolving with every experience.
  • There is no such thing as a “pure” growth mindset.
  • In order to attain the benefits of a growth mindset, we must overcome the belief that one can have just a “pure” growth mindset.

2.    A growth mindset is just about praising and rewarding effort. 

  • Not true – Outcomes matter, both with students and people in organisations.
  • Being unproductive and rewarding such effort is never a good thing.
  • Rewards are critical not just for effort but also learning and progress.
  • We must emphasize the processes that yield learning and progress, such as seeking help from others, trying new strategies, and capitalizing on failure so you can move forward more intelligently. 
  • The key outcome from the research is deeply engaging in these processes.

3.    Just adopt a growth mindset, and good things will happen. 

  • What do lofty values such as growth, empowerment, or innovation mean on mission statements to employees if the company doesn’t implement policies that make them real and attainable?   It’s often just lip service. 
  • Organizations that personify a growth mindset encourage appropriate risk-taking, knowing that things fail from time to time and that failure encourages learning and progress. 
  • They reward employees for learning and progress, support collaboration, are committed to every member of the organisation and they continuously reinforce growth mindset values through concrete policies.

To obtain a growth mindset is not as easy as correcting these misconceptions. The primary reason why is we all have our own fixed-mindset triggers. That is when we face challenges, receive criticism, or fail. We easily fall into insecurity or defensiveness, and this response hinders growth. For most people, their work environments are filled with fixed-mindset triggers. For example, “a company that plays the talent game makes it harder for people to practice growth-mindset thinking and behaviour, such as sharing information, collaborating, innovating, seeking feedback, or admitting errors.” Harvard Business Review March 2012

To remain in a growth zone, we must identify and work with these triggers. Many entrepreneurs, business owners, managers and executives have benefited from learning to recognize when their fixed mindset “persona” shows up and what it says to make them feel threatened or defensive. Most importantly, over time they have learned to talk back to it, persuading it to collaborate with them as they pursue challenging goals.

As organisations and individuals deepen their understanding of growth mindset concepts, processes will provide them with a richer sense of who they are, what they stand for and how they want to move forward.

The most astonishing thing about practicing a growth mindset is that you become limitless as you build your capacity to discover your own potential.

Where there’s a growth mindset there is a way. Once you eliminate the idea that you can’t do something just because “you’ve never been good at it” or “it’s just not my strong suit,” your potential as a person, influencer and leader becomes limitless.

For those living in a fixed mindset, you may have just given in to the lies you were told about yourself at some point in life. “So you’re not naturally athletic, its ok, study and focus your time on other activities.” “You’re not a people-person, then a sales profession isn’t going to work for you.” Can you relate to these lies that we were once told? Because of our fixed mindset, we turned these lies into truths. The truth really is different, if you dedicate the time and effort to creating a growth mindset and practice and speak with a growth mindset perspective, you will move forward and you will achieve things that previously felt impossible.

Growing up I was told I was stupid every day, I was beaten, I was called fat, I was picked on and humiliated. It brought me down academically, but I used all that stupidity, the beatings and my size and turned it into a sporting career… little did I know that I had developed a fixed mindset on academia and a growth mindset on sport. I excelled in sport, in fact in most sports, because I believed I could do it, if I applied myself and worked hard it would come to me. I used my defeats to build reliance in the same way I used the beatings to build resilience.

I got fit, I lost weight and I got pretty… ok maybe not pretty but my self-confidence grew. My hard work created breaks for me, and my corporate career grew which then led me to become a businessman and then an entrepreneur. The business failures were lessons and paved a way for me grow and flourish.

I went to University at 36 years of age for the first time, graduated with an MBA and was awarded membership to the Golden Keys Honour Society placing me in the top 15% of academics in the world. So today I am totally not stupid!

“You are too intelligent, too resourceful and too capable to live life stuck in a fixed mindset.” Stop doing others a disservice by not exploring your potential and not living your best life, by becoming the best version of yourself. Once you’ve taken on the growth mindset, continue to teach others and get ready for positive behavioural change everywhere you go. Your consistent growth mindset has the power to change your life and the lives of others.

Because I love offering resounding value to my readers, followers and clients I have put together the top ten things I did, to create a Mindset for Growth. 

1.             Be 100% accountable, always

2.             Don’t be concerned with what other have

3.             Become a specialist in your field

4.             Stop focusing on your failures – others will do that for you.

5.             Invest the time and do the work

6.             Do what you love for those that love what you do

7.             Don’t focus on money, instead focus on creating value

8.             Achieve your outcome quickly as opposed to making sure it’s perfect.

9.             Be grateful for everything you have

10.          Become self-aware and understand your purpose

So, I know I have covered a lot of ground and there are lots of golden nuggets for you to explore, but are you really sure you understand this construct of a Growth Mindset?

Let me bring it together, so stay with me for a little while longer, I promise this synopsis is worth your investment!

 A growth mindset is both the belief that skills and abilities can be improved and that developing your skills and abilities is the purpose of the actions you take.

Build a culture whereby all employees are seen to possess the potential to develop a growth mindset and they are encouraged, acknowledged and rewarded for improvement.

Failures need to be seen as opportunities and not threats and leaders need to encourage and challenge employees to be brave and courageous.

In reality, a growth mindset is the continuous belief that improvement is possible and that failures are opportunities to learn.

Growth mindset is a frame of mind held inside one person’s brain. Leaders in organisations can certainly help people adopt a growth mindset by fostering a culture around specific habits and practices.

A growth mindset is not unbounded. Just because you put your mind to it, it doesn’t mean you can do anything. You have to work at it, it doesn’t just happen.

Growth mindset is something you can be taught. Most people have multiple mindsets, some are chronic so don’t expect them to change in a moment. However, a mindset can be changed, and people can live with multiple mindsets. For example, someone might have a negative mindset of their cooking capabilities yet have a superior business growth mindset and achieve outstanding results in business.

Thank you for taking the time to hang out with me today, I hope I have been able to demystify what having a “Growth Mindset” actually means and have provided you with practical and usable references and tools to help you on your journey. 

If you haven’t already done so, head to Amazon.com.au and get a copy of my Amazon Best Seller An Introduction to a Business Growth Mindset.

In the book I draw on the lessons that I have learned, I present a straight-talking, no-nonsense guide to creating the business growth mindset that will give you the confidence and skills to take your business and your team to new heights.

The book made the Amazon Best Seller list in all books which is quite surreal. It got as high as number 93 in all books!

It has been featured by Amazon as the #1 Hottest New Release in Entrepreneurship and ranked as high as #14 In Entrepreneurship books.

It’s available on Amazon.com.au in Kindle and Paperback.

Lastly make sure you subscribe to my weekly Business Growth Mindset Podcast, links below 👇👇

Listen to the podcast on Spotify

Watch the Podcast on Youtube

As always live with purpose.

Kristian Livolsi 

We work with highly driven top performers to create meaningful change that impact their business and life through mastering a growth mindset and implementing systems and processes that support scaling.

Kristian Livolsi | Business Growth Mindset


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