Do you have a growth mindset to achieve success?

Posted on: May 24, 2017 by Marianne Hewlett

Imagine you are asked to solve a difficult question or take on a task that is outside your field of expertise. Would you embrace the challenge or would you think you are not smart enough? If the latter is the case, think again as you have the ability to train your brain. It’s not grades and qualifications that will get you to the top, it’s having a growth mindset.

According to Dr Carol Dweck, a world-renowned Stanford University psychologist, success in school, work, sports, and the arts can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset — those who believe that abilities can be developed. Those that put in effort, practice and take on a new challenge can learn and grow our brains’ capacity to learn and solve problems.

Kurt Fischer, education professor and director of the Mind, Brain, and Education Program at Harvard University explains that the brain is remarkably ‘plastic’. When a person practices a task or activity, groups of neurons in the brain fire together to create electrochemical pathways and it strengthens the connections between those cells. In a research study with students, Dr Carol Dweck found that the group that were taught to push out of their comfort zone to learn something new and difficult, and were praised for effort and hard work out performed those that weren’t taught the growth mindset and saw declining grades. The students improving their grades were doing so because neurons in the brain were making new and stronger connections.

Research from Professor James Flynn, a researcher in intelligence, backs this up. He found that intelligence isn’t static or fixed, instead, talent is dynamic – it can grow or shrink, known as the Flynn effect. His research found that in Holland, adults are still making IQ gains. So why is this so important for the future of work?

Technological change is eroding our current skillsets

Advances in social media, big data, the Internet of Things, and technological change generally means that the pace of skill obsolescence is now unrivalled by anything experienced in the 20th century. Even people who have desirable skills today may find that they’re left behind tomorrow. According to Dutch researchers, for high-skilled workers, the pace of obsolescence is nearly 4% per year, meaning that in just 10 years, college educated employees find almost half their initial skill sets are no longer useful. And as the World Economic Forum reports, “In many industries and countries, the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist ten or even five years ago, and the pace of change is set to accelerate.”

Employees of the future

For the employees of the future, this means focusing on how to learn and mastering skills that are permanently in demand. What’s needed is flexibility and adaptation, the ability to learn new things, to learn new tech and new ways of doing business, quickly.

We need ‘working learners,’ employees who have the desire and ability to adapt quickly, employees who’ve mastered the ‘soft skills’ such as persuasion, argument, and emotional intelligence. Can you sell an idea? Can you creatively assess a problem and provide an inventive solution? Can you move beyond data to the human aspects of an equation? Rather than hiring for ‘hard’ skills, recruiters must consider the soft skills a candidate has, and their ability to challenge themselves and learn new knowledge. This is crucial so they can rapidly adapt to the changing technology and business environment.

Automation marches on

In my recent post ‘Meet my colleague: the robot’, automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will continue to gather pace. While robots will take on some of the more menial tasks, they are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Google Brain has taught a program called Deep Dream to paint; slowly but surely, we are creating more complex algorithms and machines are learning faster. Humans will need a growth mindset in order to keep up and stay one step ahead of the robots. And as repetitive white-collar tasks are automated, soft skills will be increasingly emphasised in the workplace, an area where robots are unlikely to excel in…yet.

Fail fast and learn

Digital transformation is disrupting businesses inside and out. Having a growth mindset is crucial in the context of ‘fail fast and learn quickly’ - a key concept where companies are rapidly prototyping and experimenting to provide a continuous stream of innovation and new services to their customers. Having a growth mindset means that people can cope with setbacks, keep striving, keep putting in energy to reach their goals. With a fixed mindset, you’re more likely to quit when you hit a road block. Ultimately a fixed mindset could put you out of a job in future as we will all have to get more comfortable with complex problems and new challenges we had never envisaged before.


As technology, digitalization and changes to demographics lead old hierarchies to fall away, employees will be increasingly responsible for self-management. In practice, this means cultivating the self-discipline to work hard, think ahead, and manage time carefully to ensure productivity. The good news is that Dr. Dweck’s research proves that we can all shift towards a growth mindset. So next time you are presented with a challenge, embrace it. Yes you can!

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About Marianne Hewlett
Senior Vice President and member of the Scientific Community
Marianne Hewlett is a Senior Vice President at Atos and a seasoned marketeer and communications expert. Passionate about connecting people, technology and business, she is a member of the Atos Scientific Community where she explores the Future of Work and the impact of technology on individuals, organizations and society. She is a strong ambassador for diversity and inclusivity – and particularly encourages female talent to pursue a career in IT – as she believes a diverse and happy workforce is a key driver for business success. As an ambassador for the company’s global transformation program Wellbeing@work, she explores new technologies and ways of working that address the needs of current and future generations of employees. A storyteller at heart, she writes about the human side of business and technology and posts include insights into the future of work, the science of happiness, and how wellbeing and diversity can drive success.

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