Fixed vs. Growth Mindset


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In reading the New York Times best seller Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard, I read about a fascinating concept I wish to share with the readers here. Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset

Do these comments sound familiar?

  1. “He’s not a very good salesperson”
  2. “She’s one of the worst managers I’ve ever seen.”
  3. “He’s not a very smart kid.”

Notice that each of those focus on a label – not good, worst, dumb. Those are example of the Fixed Mindset. A person IS this or that. They cannot change.

On the other hand, the Growth Mindset believes that the brain is a muscle. As a muscle, it can be exercised and grow. Hard work and study is like a workout at a gym. The brain grows and adapts. (I’m a big believer in self-improvement and continual learning.)

The book shared the story of a teacher who used an interesting approach to “dumb kids.” She gave grades of A, B, C and NY (not yet). That way no one was labeled a failure. The kids responded and grades improved dramatically.

To show how a growth mindset works, let’s take the comments above and put them in a growth mindset.

  1. He’s not a very good salesperson today, but I bet if he really works on it, he could be a great one.
  2. She does have some management challenges, but she could become a great manager soon by working to learn new approaches.
  3. His grades have not been great, but he’s really studying hard and I think we’ll see great improvement soon.

See the difference? Each one can work and improve.

The fixed mindset is a rampant problem in business. Leaders label employees. Recruiters label candidates. In my extensive career, I’ve never been asked about a growth mindset – though I believe the best leaders exhibit a growth mindset. Maybe the board of directors at H-P should look fora growth mindset in their next CEO.

What do you think? Do you hear a lot of fixed mindset words, such as “He or she is this or that?” I’d love to see a healthy debate.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeff Ogden
Jeff Ogden ( is President of the Tampa based Find New Customers demand generation agency. .


  1. Jeff,

    Fixed mindset are a serious problem for organizations that expect to thrive in today’s fast-changing, uncertain and increasingly complex business climate. This is the new normal so companies need to figure out how to make the big switch from having employees perform tasks efficiently to becoming mindful and figuring our what’s different and how to deal with it.

    This dealing with it is a problem from two perspectives. One, employees need to shift from tasks to roles, roles where they contribute to one cause – creating and delivering value to customers. This applies to all levels of employees from the executive suite to the call center.

    The second perspective has to do with learning. As children we were good at learning how things worked. As adults most of us became good at learning how to work things or systems. Relearning to learn is in order.

    If a company expects sustainable profits and growth it need to shift its employees from tasks to roles – from learning it, to learning the implications of something. The latter I call Implicit learning, what are the impacts, implications and possible values to customers when confronted with something the task doesn’t handle.

    Of course, there is the issue of getting organizations to listen, collaborate and do something based on implicit learning. There are a small but growing number who do and their innovation quotient is very high – so is their relevance and value to their customers.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  2. I haven’t read the book mentioned above, but on similar lines is Carol Dwecks book Mindset, the new psychology of success,

    After reading this book, i realized that there are two things that matter the most, one is a quote from Rao, “invest in the process, not the outcome” and from the book itself that everything is a learning and growing process…

    In relation to employees and John’s comment, the most important role is that of learning and growing, flexibility, adaptability, characteristics of innovation and idea generation.

    Taking risks is a no no and that in itself is because people would rather stay task oriented and smart, rather then learning and growing and risking making mistakes…

    A growth mindset is open and resilient to challenges because they have the opportunity to learn and grow, that notion alone is what is needed for companies today to squeeze out the most important aspect of employees, which to me is their observational sensemaking capabilities of experience and knowledge of doing those tasks day in and day out..

    which then allows the employee to become a role in the company as that, an observer who is willing to learn and grow and share and most of all care to share the observations…

    until this happens, nothing will…

  3. Jeff and Spiro,

    Since you both obviously have an interest in this topics I direct to the website for the Alliance for Business Innovation ( I am one of the founders of this nonprofit think tank/do tank. We are dedicated to helping organizations and businesses deal with issues like this.

    John I. Todor, Ph.D.


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