The post-pandemic Future of Work has amplified the power of resilience and the need to embrace new working and learning methods. Many organizations have done outstandingly well against the backdrop of an amplified VUCA world. Many leaders have achieved remarkable things – from keeping families and employees safe, moving to fully remote working almost overnight, addressing employee burnout, and setting up resources for employee well-being. As the world is settling down into the perceived ‘new normal,’ organizations are building and strengthening hybrid work arrangements.
In the post-COVID-19 future, C-suite executives expect an increase in hybrid work.
Question: What level of remote working (for roles typically associated with being office-based) does your organization have?
Hybrid times call for measures that demand a relook into – policy, communication, learning, processes, and leadership. Hybrid work augments the existing dynamic nature of the VUCA world.
According to McKinsey, “Individuals and organizations need to be ready. That doesn’t imply reacting to the next challenge that comes but rather being prepared to meet it when it arrives. There’s one tool above all others that can help leaders do that: adaptability.”
Having a growth mindset is one of the traits of adaptable organizations and leaders. To understand this better, let’s look at what the growth mindset is not:
1. It is not being flexible or open-minded or having a positive outlook at life.
2. It is not just about praising and rewarding effort.
3. Promoting a growth mindset is not enough, organizations need to take measures to implement and sustain a growth mindset culture.
‘Growth Mindset’ has become a buzzword in the business world. It has even found a place in the mission statements of a few organizations. According to Dr. Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work―brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
This is opposed to a fixed mindset that describes people who believe their intelligence, talents, and personalities are fixed traits that cannot develop and grow.
Organizations that nurture a growth-mindset culture have advantages over those with a fixed mindset. Dr. Dweck found that employees in growth-mindset organizations are:
47% more likely to see their colleagues as trustworthy
34% more likely to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to their companies
65% more likely to say their companies support risk-taking
49% more likely to say their companies foster innovation
These employee engagement indicators correlate with higher financial returns, and such a culture becomes a talent attraction tool in itself. Here are two examples of organizations that have put the growth mindset into practice.
Shopify believes in hiring people who have a growth mindset by checking the individual’s core beliefs about growth and learning in all aspects of life. Then, they help talent take ownership of their career paths by coaching to support that effort. Every few months, employees immerse themselves in a two-day, companywide experiment called “Hack Days.” Hack days are about experimenting and working on a project that inspires people and helps make improvements.
Being the Curator of Culture, Nadella changed how Microsoft worked and performed. The culture change was centered around building a growth mindset. From being an inflexible and rigid organization to one that encouraged listening, learning, and harnessing individual passions and talents to the company’s mission, the change was significant. As a result, Microsoft catapulted into the position of the world’s most prosperous publicly-listed company. In addition, a mindset shift from individuals wanting to be ‘the smartest in the room’ to one of collaboration and knowledge sharing helped them achieve that.
In this accelerated VUCA world, it is not how great you are right now (tyranny of now); it’s how great you want to be (power of yet).
To cultivate and sustain a growth mindset, organizations must understand the guiding principles. These are:
1. Foster continuous learning 2. Continuous improvement 3. Moving out of the comfort zone
Organizations that adopt a growth mindset are equipped to adapt to change and ultimately thrive. Adopting a growth mindset is based on the willingness and commitment of the organization and individuals to embrace positive change in workplace culture.
The following framework can help approach Growth Mindset in a structured manner.
Failure is not final. Learning from failure is an essential aspect of inculcating a growth mindset. Creating psychological safety to allow people to experiment, learn, fail, and relearn promotes this environment. When people feel safe to fail, they experiment and learn new things. When organizations allow this freedom, they tell employees that they appreciate the process more than an outcome. As a result, these organizations do not succumb to the ‘tyranny of Now.’
Success is never the affirmation of inherent intelligence. When organizations embrace the ‘power of yet,’ they understand that there is a learning curve and a path set out for future growth. Research shows that intelligence is malleable, and repeated practice can increase neuroplasticity (the brain's ability to change and adapt with experience). Organizations and individuals in a growth mindset are open to taking up new challenges and learning new skills and behaviors. When learners feel ‘smart enough,’ there is no scope of ‘becoming’; hence, learning stops or decreases.
Further to a learning culture, organizations need to seek internal and external feedback. Organizations that are open and receptive to feedback create a culture where individuals look at feedback as developmental and not detrimental. When feedback is sought, there is importance attributed to the process rather than the result.
Organizations with a growth mindset support collaboration between different roles and functions rather than cross-functional competition. They appreciate collective learning and wins and support individuals’ growth. Growth mindset-oriented organizations set up strong development and advancement platforms for their employees.
Knowledge is the currency that enriches an organization internally. Organizations with a growth mindset learn from their mistakes and move ahead. Setting up a neutral and non-judgmental space for people to speak up about their mistakes, have conversations around them, and learn from them, helps organizations thrive in the VUCA world.
While some organizations perish, others thrive and flourish in the VUCA environment. According to Mckinsey, the Evergreen meta-skill: Adaptability propels these organizations in the desired direction. Adaptability allows organizations and individuals to foresee change work ways to navigate and move ahead.
Here’s how leaders can help employees cultivate a growth mindset quickly and at scale.
Leaders need to highlight the importance of cultivating a growth mindset by speaking its language and demonstrating such behaviors themselves. Instructor-led training or self-paced learning that helps learners understand the fundamentals of a growth mindset helps them assess and gain insights on where they currently stand is a great start to foster this mindset.
Organizations can look at self-paced digital learning and experiential learning solutions that incorporate self-reflection, feedback, and self-correction elements. This aligns with the growth mindset principle that the process is vital in achieving results.
To build a growth mindset, there needs to be constant tracking. Feedback tools for participants and managers (i) to rate change in approach and behaviors, (ii) check performance/ process, and (iii) assess the ability to navigate challenging situations will help measure progress.i
Organizations applying the growth mindset can significantly alter their impact and outcomes in an uncontrollable and ever-changing milieu. They push through challenges together by accepting what’s new and understanding that they can learn and evolve.
A growth mindset essentially means
In a VUCA and hybrid setting, the only possible way to ride the way of change and challenge is to believe that organizations like people can unlearn, relearn and excel.