In a performance oriented society the behavior enforced is people saying how smart they are. How they are smarter than the rest so they should get promoted and they should get the pay raises. Those who struggle with difficult tasks are the under performers who should not be praised or rewarded, and the worse should be managed out of the company. If you struggle to learn, then you are not smart. Wrong.
Salman Khan writes a post based on his experience with his son struggling to learn. One insight is Salman’s reference to Carol Dweck’s work.
However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.
Fixed mindsets all to often fit a performance oriented approach with set metrics of how people should perform. Inability to meet performance targets are inexcusable and will be punished. Can you imagine if Salman used that approach with his son?
Salman closes with the importance of being aware of the growth mindset and share the concept.
And now here’s a surprise for you. By reading this article itself, you’ve just undergone the first half of a growth-mindset intervention. The research shows that just being exposed to the research itself (for example, knowing that the brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right) can begin to change a person’s mindset. The second half of the intervention is for you to communicate the research with others. We’ve made a video (above) that celebrates the struggle of learning that will help you do this. After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can learn anything.