Source | www.chieflearningofficer.com | James Fulton | Todd M. Warner
Carol Dweck’s work on “growth mindset” has caught the fancy of organizations the world over, and why wouldn’t it? The core supposition of a growth mindset is that an individual’s talents and capabilities can evolve over time; at its core are the underlying beliefs that people hold about intelligence and learning. It is with deep sadness that we report that the function charged with building this growth mindset in most organizations remains hostage to deeply “fixed mindset” thinking.
Although the idea of a growth mindset is commonly discussed in corporate learning programs, many leaders adopt a fixed mindset when it comes to envisioning the learning function’s role and capabilities. To quote Dweck, “Our work environments, too, can be full of fixed mindset triggers.” Business leaders need to shift their views of what the learning function is and what it can do.
In contrast to a growth mindset, a fixed mindset is characterized by more static parameters surrounding what can be accomplished and tight boundaries around familiar activities. In an individual, a fixed mindset constrains risk-taking and a willingness to experiment and innovate. At an organizational level, we see learning functions captive to a form of risk aversion and a lack of innovation that has all of the hallmarks of deeply fixed mindset thinking.
Despite the advances in learning delivery through digital transformation and content libraries, learning functions often are one of the least innovative parts of the business. Critically, the fundamental mandates and approaches to learning have remained unchallenged. The irony isn’t lost on us. For most people, “learning” occurred in classrooms at school and in their early years of professional training. As a result, most organizational leaders operate from a very fixed mindset of what a learning function does and how it does it.
The mandates that organizational leaders hand down to learning functions, and the acceptance of those mandates, is the heart of the problem. For most organizations, learning is an act of providing content for individual improvement. Learning becomes synonymous with training for individuals or a reward for talent to go to a nice resort for a week, enjoy a tasty buffet and share some interesting ideas before returning to work. Improvement in this landscape is merely about making what we have done before marginally better or cheaper, despite the overwhelming evidence that our approaches don’t yield the type of organizational impact we need. The boundaries, mandates and activities for most learning functions are very clearly fixed.