The Science of Learning Explains the Missteps of Growth Mindset

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Research shows some leaders take growth mindset and run in all sorts of directions with it. To understand why, we can look to the science of learning.

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Our research makes it clear that leaders have made huge strides in adopting growth mindset. Across 20 of the world’s largest organizations, leaders at many levels now regard mistakes and challenges as chances to learn and grow.

Unfortunately, there’s still a lot leaders tend to get wrong about growth mindset. They may define the concept incorrectly; apply it unproductively; or take it to an extreme. In these cases, it’s important to remember the leader may not be to blame. It may just be the learning process they went through.

At NLI, we like to say that “meaning makes memory.” How you relate new information to what you already know ultimately determines how you create knowledge around that information. For instance, you might have an easier time learning the periodic table if you turn the elements into a song.

On the other hand, if you don’t attach much meaning to a concept, you won’t remember it as much. And if you attach an incorrect meaning to a concept, you risk internalizing it in potentially unhelpful ways. This is a key insight into the science of learning. When leaders put a huge premium on profits or productivity, they risk defining growth mindset in those terms.

The outcomes, you might expect, don’t bode well for employees or organizations.

To learn more, check out our recent article in Fast Company, “This is what leaders often get wrong about growth mindset.”

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