The teachers love teaching, the kids love learning, and they do well on the test. Let’s get back to that here.
JAMES MOREHEAD: So going into the corporate environment, can you actually think of an organization as a growth mindset organization or a fixed mindset organization? You do talk about Enron in your book as an example of probably not the positive side. So talk about how you can look at it from an organizational level, and then if you want your culture to be a growth mindset culture, how do you start to tackle that?
CAROL DWECK: Yes, yes. So in my book, I identify organizations that value talent, raw talent, above all else, or they believed in everyone’s ability to improve and develop and value that. In our recent work we’ve actually gone in and asked the people. We asked employees in different Fortune 500 organizations, what mindset does your company have? Is it a company that believes in fixed talent and worships it? Or is it a company that believes everyone can develop their abilities and really provide these opportunities? And what we found was there was remarkable consensus within organizations about which mindset their organization has, and more important, it made a big difference.
JAMES MOREHEAD: So in terms of that difference, you kind of compare and contrast companies that you view as leaders in growth mindset versus those that have struggled maybe because of a fixed mindset culture.
CAROL DWECK: Well, in this research we found that employees in growth mindset organizations said they felt more empowered by the organization and more committed to it. Whereas their counterparts in the more fixed mindset organizations kind of had one foot out the door waiting for the next highest bidder. But to me what was even more interesting is that the people in growth mindset organizations said their companies valued creativity, innovation, and they really put their money where their mouth was.
So if you took it a reasonable risk and it didn’t work out, they said my company has my back. My company really values teamwork was another thing they said in the growth mindset organization. In the more fixed mindset organizations, the employees said, yeah, the company talks innovation and creativity. But if things don’t work out, someone pays the price.
And finally, the managers in the growth mindset organizations said that their employees had tremendous potential to rise within the organization, become stars, join management. Whereas, and I love this finding because in the fixed mindset organization they’re worshipping the talent, and hiring the talent, and paying to keep the talent, but a few years later, they’re not saying there are a lot of people who have potential to rise in the organization. Either they’ve left or they don’t have the potential anymore.
JAMES MOREHEAD: So many of us in the room participate in interviewing potential candidates for Google. So let’s assume for a second that Google’s trying to have a growth mindset — that it is. What are strategies that interviewers can use to help identify that train people, or identify that someone will be open to going down that path?
CAROL DWECK: Great question. I worked with a major league baseball team, so I’ll talk about that first, to devise questions that they could ask to potential draft choices. One was, how do you get so good at baseball? And some of them said, well, you know, I was born with this natural talent. And others said, well, my father and I — we worked at it constantly. We had a batting cage in the backyard. He filmed me, we watched the tapes, and so forth.
Another one was thinking about on-field success in the major leagues, what do you think you’d have to change? And some of them said things like I’ll have to get used to the cheering of larger crowds. And others said, maybe everything I’ll have to take all my skills to a new level. It’s a whole new ball game.
So this knowledge that you might have to really reorganize, redefine yourself and build new skills is really important. Taking that to the corporate setting, first I might ask people what their greatest failures were, see whether they take responsibility, and what they did with that failure. Did they capitalize on it to do something even better than they could have imagined? Did they use it to put value added back into the company? Or on the other hand, did they say well, I had this failure, I worked too hard. Or do they make it something that really reflects well on them, or was it someone else’s fault? And then this kind of readiness to learn, readiness to share credit, these kinds of questions.
JAMES MOREHEAD: So I’ve debated your theories of mindset with colleagues over lunch, particularly my last company. There was really this resistance to accept that talent and/or intelligence were in any way malleable. Talk about that for a minute. Is intelligence truly something that’s malleable? And maybe other physiological differences between people that you’ve researched that are identified as growth mindset or fixed mindset?
CAROL DWECK: So we absolutely know that skills and abilities are malleable, and that’s kind of what counts. That’s what turns itself into performance. But there have been fascinating studies. First of all, looking into the brains of fixed and growth mindset people as they work on a hard task and make errors, and you see that the people who are in a growth mindset are having the relevant areas of the brain really light up, catch fire as they process the errors and correct them.
Whereas in the brains of the people who are in more of a fixed mindset, very little is going on. They’re seeing their errors, and they’re moving on as quickly as possible. But my favorite study along these lines tracked teenagers from the age of 14 to 18. The teenage brain — our brains are still very malleable, but the teenage brain is unbelievably malleable. It’s a time of tremendous potential growth. And what they found over those four years was that there were some kids who gained a lot in IQ points in math or verbal areas, and there were others that lost a lot of points and attract with the density of their neurons in the relevant parts of their brains.
So we believe that the kids who really went at it, and took on the challenges, and worked hard were creating these denser neurons, and the others who didn’t use it lost it.