Fostering Growth Mindset with Your (Digital) Learning Strategy

In today’s business, agility, resilience and the willingness to take risks defines the best and most innovative organisations. To achieve a culture embracing challenges, change and risks, organisations need to nurture a Growth Mindset in their employees. Professor Carol Dweck has done extensive research on individuals and companies, examining the performance differences between a fixed mindset and growth mindset. In short, a fixed mindset seems to be holding back change and innovation, whereas organisations with a growth mindset are able to truly embrace the rapidly changing environment.

You can read more about Carol Dweck and Fixed vs. Growth Mindset here. 

To drive the mindset change from fixed to growth, learning and development plays an important part. Everything starts from the mindset and strategy in this regard as well. Hence, here are 4 important things you should incorporate into your learning strategy to enable growth mindset.

Effort praise vs. intelligence praise

In her research, Prof. Dweck found out that people who are praised for their intelligence (“you’re so smart”) become much less prone to taking on risks and new challenges. They fear losing their status of intelligence or recognition if they don’t excel in the next challenge. On the other hand, people who have been praised for their effort (“you worked hard and did well, but could you improve further?”) are more likely to develop a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset tend to embrace all the challenges and difficulties that come their way.

Naturally, as a business, you are likely better off with people with a growth mindset. Hence, it’s important to start recognising effort instead of intelligence. This starts from the feedback culture. You should always keep the learners on their toes – remind them that there’s always room for improvement and more to learn. Encourage the top performers in any learning activity to seek out more advanced knowledge. Meanwhile, encourage the bottom performers to try again, possibly with different approaches.

Therefore, you should implement constant and continuous feedback streams across your learning – focusing on effort. Digital platforms provide great ways of providing such feedback. Furthermore, enabling constant, effort-centered feedback is very easy to implement across all digital learning content. However, no matter how you go about it, remember not to encourage effort the wrong way. You don’t want your employees to keep trying repeatedly and blindly without seeing any results. Instead, you should encourage them to seek new ways of doing things and achieving their learning goals.

Reward the learning journey instead of the end result

On a related note, organisations should also consider rewarding the effort put into learning. Often, it is easy to reward top performers who e.g. have scored the highest in a formal test. However, if the existing skill level of these people has already been high, it’s likely that very little development has happened. Hence, you may easily fall back to intelligence praise. Instead of rewarding just top performers, you should perhaps look at development on a wider level. You should ask yourself which of your employees have developed the most. They may not be the best yet, but they have likely exercised the most effort. Thus, you should recognise the effort reminding them that everything is within their reach as long as they work hard for it. This is key in developing the growth mindset.

Personalise learning opportunities

We all know that learning is a highly individual thing – people learn in different styles and have different preferences. Therefore, your L&D activities should be more learner-centric rather than company-centric. Instead of having a single, corporate-defined pathway to learning success, you should enable people to work on their strengths. Kinetic learners will likely struggle with traditional approaches, whereas highly motivated individuals may lose interest in learning formats without social elements or discovery.

Therefore, it’s important to personalise both the learning journeys as well as learning content delivery. Digital provides great opportunities for personalising learning journey’s according to individual’s skill levels, learning styles etc. Whenever someone’s struggling, encourage them to try alternative approaches, and provide supporting resources. If someone is not learning in a classroom, try experiential or digital delivery – and vice versa. This also communicates trust to your staff – they’ll know that they have an opportunity to try again if they fail initially. And that’s what growth mindset is all about.

Embrace mistakes and enable a risk-free learning environment

Finally, failure and mistakes are things that should be embraced rather than avoided in the corporate learning space. Overall, making mistakes is one of the strongest drivers of learning. Surely no employee is wilfully making mistakes and adversely affecting the business.

Enabling a risk-free learning culture is important. You should never punish employees for mistakes or imperfections. Hence, you should build all learning activities in a way that they can be re-done. If an employee scores low in assessment or doesn’t get a good review, let them try again. Especially in the realm of digital learning, repetition costs no extra. If you have areas of training which are hard to do train live in the fear of making mistakes (e.g. frontline jobs), you could consider digital learning simulations or immersions.

All in all, the best thing L&D professionals can do to foster growth mindset development is to avoid putting people in boxes. Every one of your employees has the potential to be a high performer (if not, you might revisit your hiring decisions), they just need to find their own way. And you as an employee should provide them to tools to do that.

Are you focusing your recognition on intelligence rather than effort? Would you like to find out how you can leverage digital on providing personalised learning with effort-centric recognition? Contact us to find out more.  

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