Everywhere I go these days, business is getting easier AND more complicated. We have access to more information, seemingly unlimited resources and opportunities to succeed. Yet there are more choices, competition comes from everywhere, and it’s tougher to focus and prioritize getting the work done. The world is simply getting more complex.
Fortunately, our brains are wired for growth and renewal. Our brain cells die and regenerate every day, and our minds are an ever-expanding classroom adding new knowledge, imagining new possibilities and making fresh connections all the time. This is a good thing, because every business I walk into these days is having to change how it does business.
Whether it’s Under Armour in the retail space, Airbnb in the travel industry, or Uber replacing taxis, we are seeing new business models popping up and cannibalizing traditional enterprises. Even companies that make submarines, sell insurance, make flavors and fragrances, or operate on the internet are having to transform their businesses to stay competitive. Ask Ford or GM and they will tell you they are now technology companies.
So how can you survive and thrive in this increasingly complex world? Not surprising, the answer starts inside yourself.
Carol Dweck started the conversation in her groundbreaking book “Mindset.” We at Healthy Companies expanded this work for application in business. We conducted a project with the Darden Business School at UVA to figure out what distinguished leaders who succeeded in this new complex world from those who did not. One of the big findings was whether the leader at any level had a growth or fixed mindset.
Growth mindset people see opportunities, think with a broader mind and prefer action to inaction. They are comfortable with ambiguity, seek out uncertain situations to learn new things and feel confident that they will succeed. Remarkably pragmatic and idealistic at the same time, they view life as a journey of experimentation and continuous learning is their goal.
For fixed mindset people, life is a test. The goal is to pass it without looking foolish or stupid. They feel they are only as good as their most recent performance, so they feel compelled to prove themselves over and over. Because they are afraid of exposing their deficiencies, they see criticism and setbacks as indications of their basic flaws. Their primary goal is to avoid making mistakes. To accomplish this, they shy away from new experiences, and stick to things they know and can do well. Inevitably, this narrows their horizons and shuts down their learning and growth.
Now clearly we are not static individuals. We move back and forth between having fixed and growth mindsets all the time depending on the situation. But in these complex days, being stuck or free really matters to your success.
Here are three steps for developing a stronger growth mindset:
Growth starts with you—your beliefs and behaviors. The first step is self-awareness. “What kinds of thoughts am I having right now (fixed or growth) and what kinds of thoughts do I need to be having to navigate the complexity around me?”
The second step is investigation. Ask yourself – “Why am I having these thoughts?” The goal is to identify the negative stories you’ve been telling yourself, to see patterns in your past that may have prevented you from taking risks, and step outside your current assumptions and mental models for fresh ideas.
Detachment is the third step. Moving from a fixed to a growth mindset is easier when you don’t become obsessed with the outcome. Be more committed to the journey than the outcome, live in the present, be courageous and try new things, and challenge yourself to think and act differently. By taking your ego out of the pursuit of growth, you build confidence and can enjoy the ride.