Growth Mindset Enables Leaders (and Their Businesses) to Look For Opportunities

When I first read about the “growth mindset” coined by Dr. Carol Dweck, Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, I felt like I was reading about business leaders and technology, not schoolchildren and young adults.

If you are not familiar with mindsets, the tenet suggests that people with a fixed mindset self-select themselves for success/failure by believing “they’ve got it or they don’t.” They work with their current talents and do not push to learn and improve, and believe that there are limitations to their innate abilities. This means they could have a set of spectacular skills (think of the singer who never needed to take voice lessons) or they only can improve their life course by developing their talent and skills through learning.

Unlike the fixed mindset, the growth mindset has an open mind, believing the possibilities for the future are endless – you just have to put your mind to it. Those with a growth mindset embrace learning, make an effort, see opportunities through challenges and strive to grow and absorb new information to improve.  This graphic from the article “Developing the Growth Mindset in Math” illustrates the philosophies of the two mindsets.


You can probably see why I was equating these mindsets with business leaders. When we look to where businesses are going from manual processing to automated processing, we see similar attitudes: Fixed: reluctant to embrace change; and growth: looking to use new technology to innovate for greater gains in efficiency.

The business visionaries want to grow the business and recognize that there are many ways to improve operational productivity. We often hear their challenges with content management, paper-based processes and inefficient workflows, and are able to guide them to a solution because they recognize that they need to adopt a new technology.  For their company, it means learning how to do the same thing in a new way – a better way. The growth mindset supports the team that “… likes to try new things.”

The business leaders who are not looking toward technology to make changes are standing still.  They are afraid of the unknown and reluctant to make a change. Or perhaps they are not ready due to budgetary constraints or a board that is holding them back. Looking at new ways to innovate can be disruptive to a company, and depending on the leader’s willingness to take risks, often there is reluctance to act coupled with the fear that their staff will be reluctant to adopt something new. “I stick to what I know,” is the mantra of these leaders.

While I am taking the liberty of extending the growth mindset (for internal development of the individual) to an organization,  we all know that the persona of a company’s leadership is going to provide the direction for the company. If the business leaders possess the growth mindset, they channel the same desire to grow, innovate and learn to their organizations.  Also, a strong leader can affect the culture of an organization.  When the leader gives forth the mindset that challenges are good for personal growth and everyone benefits from the intellectual growth of the team, we can see a leader who knows where he wants his company to be in the future.

Understanding the future state is a key challenge for adopting new technology.  A trusted advisor has to help the leader envision the future for the organization, and most high-level decision-makers only want to know about the benefits or changes that they want in the end.

For instance, I recently attended an AIIM meeting and heard the CEO of a government agency discuss her pain points – one of which was that her staff had to juggle 72 logons during a typical day.  She wanted one.  One would be efficient and effective, and reduce employee frustration and improve productivity.

Around that ask, of course, was then an evaluation of systems and functions and how they were doing their jobs – requiring an assessment and election to make some changes.  The details of what was needed were left to the IT professionals, but the CEO knew a change was needed to improve the productivity of her agency and to reduce employee frustration.

So while the official growth mindset tenet is inward facing, leaders who look to apply the same desires to an organization can better shape their business for the future and promote the need to overcome challenges in the company.  As we move toward a digital society with digital business operations and automated functionality, change is needed.  We recognize that disparate legacy systems with  72 logons are situations crying out for change.  With the growth mindset, organizations are empowered to look for “Challenges to make us grow” and being inspired by the success of other business leaders.

Digital solutions for capturing content and using automated workflows may be the outcome of your future state, but it all starts with a simple idea:

–        I want one logon.

–        I want to avoid late payment fees on invoices.

–        I want to get rid of file cabinets that take up too much space.

–        I want to deliver on auditor requests within two days – not two weeks.

–        I want to improve customer satisfaction

–        I want to increase employee productivity

The observant business leader who looks at challenges or business problems as chances to improve [the company] and grow [the company] is the driver we all need to see as we look to the workplace of the future.

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Joanne Novak is a program manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. and is responsible for program development with the company’s Business Intelligence groups, including the Intelligent Information Management (IIM) practice. Her responsibilities are to build sales and customer-facing educational and thought leadership insights as well as strategic initiatives for IIM.