Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Creating an #agile mindset

Mindset is a book by Carol Dweck. In it she talks about "fixed" and "growth" mindsets. These mindsets are created in childhood and affect performance and attitudes to an astonishing degree. Even organisations can possess and propagate these "mindsets".

The fixed mindset believes that our abilities are more or less fixed and we can do little to change this - some people are just more talented than others. The growth mindset believes that our abilities can be developed and grown, given the correct stimulus, and that talent can be developed over time.

These beliefs lead to two basic problem solving mindsets: The fixed mindset sees problems as opportunities to showcase one's abilities, whilst the growth mindset regards problems as opportunities to learn and grow. Needless to say people and organisations with the growth mindset consistently out-perform those with the fixed one. Luckily for us we can change our (and others) mindsets moving us (or our organisation) from a fixed to a growth mindset.

Apparently, generic praise leads to a fixed mindset, which is demotivating in the long term. According to her research, people with a fixed mindset consistently avoid more difficult tasks (when given the choice) and were even prone to lie about their performance. Non-generic praise leads instead to a growth mindset and increased performance. Unfortunately, the differences in generic and non-generic praise are subtle and mistakes are easy. In the case of children Carol gives the examples; "you are a really good painter" (an example of generic praise which will lead to a fixed mindset) and "that painting is really good" (an example of non-generic or specific praise which will lead to a growth mindset). An example for those of us in development organisations might be: instead of; "Thanks Eric, you are a great developer", we should be using; "Thanks Eric, you did a great job on that task/task x".

So, from now on I am trying to remember to give specific, non-generic, praise! (I have been trying this at home with my one year old and it's a lot harder than it seems!)

You can find out more about the book or buy it at mindsetonline.com and learn about her other project at brainology.us


  1. Nice to see you are using Prezi below! Can make a simple presentation that much more interesting!

    I always enjoy your blogs, very informative and insightful.


  2. Hi Hass,

    This was funny; Mindset is on my to-buy-list for today. We maybe got the same book recommendation somewhere? :-)

    I like reading your blog; I think you have a nice view of agile and management.


  3. @Hannah - Thanks for your comment! I mostly use Prezi because it allows me to mindmap out my ideas first and then to organize them into a presentation. I'd love to be able to import from Simple Mind! The only bad thing about Prezi is the lack of speaker notes.

    @Anders - Thanks :) Carol Dweck is cited by many agile and management 3.0 speakers. Her reseach has been very influential for many years. It's always good to go to the source every so often.