Several months ago, I wrote a blog about the difference between Growth and Fixed Mindsets, as described by Carol Dweck in her excellent book, Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. After several studies, especially one in which subjects were asked to solve a difficult problem, people with a growth mindset believed, despite failing the first time that they could solve it by improving their strategy. Indeed, despite the fact that the problem was originally designed to be too difficult to solve, some actually did! In contrast, after similarly failing, people with a fixed mindset believed that they would not be able to solve the problem by denigrating their abilities (e.g., I’m not very smart, I have a bad memory, I’m no good at these things.) In other words, as Matthew Syed notes in Black Box Thinking, people with a growth Mindset see mistakes as their friends, spurring them to learn more and try new things. Indeed, to use Angela Duckworth’s framework of grit (see Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance, people with grit have a growth mindset, which is why they persevere.
As you know, I work with lots of people, especially CEOs and other leaders, and recently someone recommend that I read Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, by the Arbinger Institute. It too, speaks of contrasting mindsets – but attaches a different meaning to mindset. Arbinger is not focused on self-belief concerning internal capabilities versus external circumstances, but how people view other people with whom they connect such as co-workers, family, friends, etc. When people have an inward mindset, they are self-focused – seeing others as objects or tools to be used for their own purpose. So you might get very angry when someone inconveniences you by coming late.
In contrast, with an outward mindset, we connect with people and others-inclusive way – seeing people who matter like we view ourselves. We show equal respect by understanding why the person was late, knowing it could happen for lots of reasons that might be beyond the person’s control. Another example: When you do something you think is nice for others, are you doing it because it’s something you want to do or something they want done for them?
So the implications of the inward-outward dichotomy are completely different. Its focus is on understanding why people are more likely to work together collaboratively and productively with others: they have an outward-focused rather than self-focused mindset. Indeed, whatever one’s self-belief (growth or fixed), our performance with other depends on how we see and respond to others!
Try using these two different mindset perspectives to understand you and your interactions with others. Then, with us share the insights you gained about yourself and how these tools help you!