Recently I attended a really thought provoking event hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce which was on the topic of the role of Life Long Learning & Business Growth. The speakers on the day were of equal measure witty & informative which kept the audience refreshingly alert and engaged.

All of the topics and findings from this day have stuck with me still, but it was Philip Matthew’s talk on the Mindset for growth that I find myself coming back to and resisting the urge to speak about at every given chance … clearly my willpower hasn’t held up on this occasion!  In keeping with the day’s theme of lifelong learning, Philip’s speech focused mainly on the research and workings of Carol Dweck a highly respected and published psychologist who lectures in Stanford University. Dweck proposes that people’s learning style/mindset can be categorised into two, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset which in summary can be described as follows:

A fixed mindset are those who believe that their talents and achievements in their career and indeed their personal life are innate in them and that they are essentially born with their strengths and talents. Those with a growth mindset are “individuals who believe their talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies and input from others.” The see failure not as evidence of unintelligence but rather as a foundation and springboard to learn and grow from. People with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning.”

So what does these mean? And what does it mean to a recruiter? For me, it really got me thinking, (a very dangerous thing)!  It made me wonder how far rooted these mindsets reached? What affect would this have in terms of my candidates thought process and outlook; surely this must have some bearing on their approach to their job search as well as their approach to learning. After all Deck found that traits of these mindsets were found in research with candidates of the age of 4. And also, if this mindset was so prominent within people, could these same principles be as clear cut in companies too?

After further happy digging, it turns out Deck got tickled by this question far before me. After again conducting several diverse sample tests on a number of fortune 1000 companies, Dweck and her team of researchers found that like individuals, companies too could be seen to be either of a fixed or growth mindset. And like people, companies suffered from the negative effect of a fixed mind set. For example; Employees within firms with a fixed mindset had a focus on “star workers” and teams were reported to be more worried about failing and thus had fewer innovation projects.

As opposed to companies of a fixed mindset, Growth mindset companies are:

  • 47% likelier to say that their colleagues are trustworthy
  • 34% likelier to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company
  • 65% likelier to say that the company supports risk taking
  • 49% likelier to say that the company fosters innovation

Upon researching this topic, I found myself considering my own candidates and clients to see just how life like this mindset truly was. It turns out, it unequivocally is. I have recently had the pleasure to work very closely with a really interesting dynamic and diverse gaming company based in Dublin, where from the onset I knew that the cultural fit for this organisation would be more important than any other element to the role. In essence the culture came to have a marmite effect. Candidates would love it or hate it. It became clear early on that what I had thought to be the perks of the firm such as its view on flexi time, its flat structure, the little to no regimented HR processes as well as built in gaming time were all again feeling the marmite effect. At the time, I had thought this was down to a culture mismatch, but now I wonder is this in fact a mindset mismatch?

Upon closer inspection of the candidates in the process I found that those who progressed in the process had growth mindset characteristics. So those who embrace change, persist in the face of setbacks, see efforts as path to mastery, learn from critics, and finally find lessons and inspiration in the success of others were successful in achieving a role with the firm. Similarly, those who did not progress had very close similarities to that of the fixed mindset. What this meant on a more practical basis was that those who didn’t need a job spec or often didn’t even need a specific open role to interview, faired the best within interviews. Those who were happiest to receive feedback on themselves, who were open to discuss what their weaknesses and who were open to unusual interview competency questions or interview tasks, were those who progressed within the company. Their approach and demeanour in interview were all classic case growth mindset characteristics and as a result have proved to be a great fit within this growth mindset firm!

If the characteristics that were deemed successful for this gaming company are so blatant, and in line with the firm’s internal mantra, could it be that this growth vs. fixed mindset approach be a magic key that unlocks a better fit for both candidates and clients? Is this outlook perhaps even more trustworthy than industry background and experience? I’m left with thinking, will the fixed vs. growth mindset overtake the role of culture or are they one of the same?