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How we helped Microsoft develop a Growth Mindset

4 min read
  • Business
  • Motivation, Resilience & Growth Mindset

How do big companies develop a collective growth mindset? Microsoft are currently spending a lot of time, energy and effort on fostering a company mindset that is conducive to learning and development. Last week we advised part of their European team on how best to do this. This blog gives a brief summary of some of the areas we discussed with them.

A recent review by Carol Dweck and colleagues on the benefits of a business fostering a growth mindset included:

  • Higher levels of trust between employees
  • Higher levels of engagement
  • More creative and innovative culture
  • Less likely to endorse and engage in unethical behaviour
  • Reduced ‘blame game’ culture

Microsoft have spent a lot of thought into how best to develop a growth mindset. This has included offering their employees opportunities to step outside of their comfort zone, promoting a healthy attitude towards curiosity and re-thinking how they develop their staff and their teams.

So how can businesses develop a growth mindset? We highlighted four areas to Microsoft worth considering:

What to do once you fail

The pressure to be seen as the smartest person in the room can lead to self-handicapping behaviours after a failure. These include not asking for help, lying about your mistakes or withdrawing from the situation.  A recent paper looking at perfectionism, growth mindset and gifted + talented students recently highlighted this in an education setting.

We advise people to learn how to ‘fail better’. This doesn’t mean failing more often, or striving to fail. Instead, it means that understanding that some failures along the way are inevitable and it is important to maximise them.  To read a bit more about how to fail better, check out our blog on 7 ways to fail better.

We think a ‘Triple A’ approach helps here. Learning from mistakes takes the journey of Acknowledging your mistakes, Asking for feedback and then Actioning the advice that you get given.

Tweak how you praise your team

The type of praise some receives has a big impact on how they see themselves (and subsequently how they perform). Research suggests that the type of feedback you receive as a toddler can have impact on your mindset up to 5 years later. This impact is also apparent beyond just the childhood years – having an impact on both teenagers and adults.

The problem with praising individuals as ‘smart’ is that it gives them a title. We know that human beings are loss averse, meaning that the thought of losing something is a bigger driver than the thought of winning something. The fear of losing this label of ‘smartness’ can result in people hiding behind excuses and protecting their ego – often at the cost of their development.

In our blog, ‘How to actually develop a growth mindset’, we discuss the different behaviours that will hopefully lead to a growth mindset. These include effort, curiosity, courage and having high expectations. 

Our CPD workshop will help your school foster the right environment to develop gritty, resilient, self-motivated students.

Change the way you talk to yourself

As well as tweaking the way you talk to your colleagues, it is important to reflect on how you talk to yourself. This often includes asking yourself better questions. These may include ‘is today’s effort worth tomorrow’s reward?’ and ‘what would I do differently next time?’. This helps you focus your attention on the effort the task requires, as well as reviewing the processes and strategies you had implemented. For more information about the relationship between self-talk and mindset, check out our blog ‘Growth Mindset sentences’.

Focus on your sense of purpose

The mindset that the individuals within your team have will be shaped by their surroundings. Psychologists call this your ‘motivational climate’. There is some interesting research on the limiting effects on the power of ‘rewards’ and ‘fear’. Instead, it seems that focusing on a ‘sense of purpose has more lasting benefits’.

By helping people identify how the task at hand will benefit them in the future has been found to help people improve their motivation, engagement and effort levels. One interesting study combined developing a sense of purpose and growth mindset to see if it could help at risk students. The results? They found that students receiving this type of intervention were more likely to stay in school and that this type of intervention were scalable across a whole organisation.

Final Thoughts

The next few years promises to be an exciting time at Microsoft as they continue to develop a growth mindset culture at the company. There are no quick fixes or silver bullets. Fostering a growth mindset culture takes time. The pay-off is worth it, as a result, innovation will thrive in an environment that focuses on learning, development and continuous improvement. 

About the editor

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch

Bradley Busch is a Chartered Psychologist and a leading expert on illuminating Cognitive Science research in education. As Director at InnerDrive, his work focuses on translating complex psychological research in a way that is accessible and helpful. He has delivered thousands of workshops for educators and students, helping improve how they think, learn and perform. Bradley is also a prolific writer: he co-authored four books including Teaching & Learning Illuminated and The Science of Learning, as well as regularly featuring in publications such as The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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