A Peek Inside Microsoft’s Growth-Mindset Evolution

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Microsoft's growth mindset has helped the organization develop into one of the most valuable companies in the world. Here's how they did it.

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For a few years now, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has grown fond of a particular mantra. Maybe you’ve heard it before. Don’t be a know-it-all, Nadella says. Be a learn-it-all.

Simple as it may be, that small revision reflects an incredible transformation in the way Microsoft operates. The company has spent the past several years building a “growth mindset,” the belief that skills can be improved through persistent effort. Decades of research have shown that people with a growth mindset achieve far more in life, school, and relationships than people who see their skills as fixed.

For Microsoft, growth mindset has come to represent a goal of lifelong education. As we detail in our latest white paper, “Growth Mindset: Case Study Collection,” Nadella and his surrounding leadership team have come to discourage a “culture of genius,” in which people use their intelligence competitively, rather than cooperatively.

Doing the work to inspire growth

Microsoft partnered with NLI to strengthen its initial interest in growth mindset. In addition to creating a new leadership framework, Microsoft adopted a number of strategies to make growth-mindset efforts stick. For instance, leadership worked with NLI to develop conversation guides to help people reframe their language in terms of growth and possibility. The company has also started publicly celebrating demonstrated efforts to use growth mindset. Leadership also created games, quizzes, and libraries to help people gain a fuller understanding of the concept.

“If we want the growth mindset to happen in real life,” said one Senior Director of Organizational Development, “we have to create the conditions for it and modify them as we learn what works and what doesn’t.”

In that way, Microsoft’s smartest move may have been taking a growth mindset during the rollout itself. Inevitably, some people will see the value immediately, while others may need more convincing. By taking a growth mindset along the way, Microsoft has been able to turn small wins into major successes.

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