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Developer's Mindset Growth

Dijana Perić, Program Manager

While a lot of people think that our success and our accomplishments depend on what we were born with, experts from Stanford might make them change their minds. In 2007, Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University published the book Mindset – The New Psychology of Success. She found that our attitude about intelligence and talent determines our accomplishments in regard to learning or business success. The best thing for our personal and professional development is to know that we can.

According to Dweck's book, people’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their competencies have been defined when they were born. They also believe that their talents and intelligence cannot be changed or improved. This kind of mindset creates problems when you are faced with challenges because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed.

People with a growth mindset believe that intelligence and competences can be improved during our life. They outperform those with a fixed mindset – even when they have a lower IQ – because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn new lessons.

People are not born with a fixed or growth mindset. The mindset is formed from a young age.

The growth mindset should also be encouraged in children. This is one of the ways to keep them away from frustration and lower stress when they encounter failure. With the current education system, children become obsessed with getting the best grades – they dream of the next test to prove their worth instead of dreaming big. A by-product of this mindset is that we’re making them dependent on the validation that we’re giving them.

In order to change it and to make our children grow up with a growth mindset, we should praise their work ethic instead of intelligence or talent.

… We can praise wisely, not praising intelligence or talent. That has failed. Don’t do that anymore. But praising the process that kids engage in: their effort, their strategies, their focus, their perseverance, their improvement. This process praise creates kids who are hardy and resilient.

Growth Mindset in Serengeti

Since a growth mindset is something that we nurture, we encourage a growth mindset attitude among our employees. What we praise the most is hard work. We have also noticed that employees with a growth mindset are much easier to manage and perform more successfully at work and when collaborating with clients.

Here are the basic principles of how we develop a growth mindset among our employees:

Share feedback. We try to foster a learning culture in our company and encourage people at work to start sharing feedback with one another. Managers, team leaders and developers try to give feedback to each other very often. Something similar is also done during our development process; through code reviews or sprint retrospectives, we give feedback to our colleagues about their work or our work as a team in total. Giving and receiving feedback encourages a growth mindset and people realise that this is a chance for them to improve their skills, so they do not take it personally.

Promote in-house. Many individuals with a fixed mindset see little or no upward career progression in their workplace. Many of them are contented with it because they believe they don’t have the capability to surpass their current level. They believe they have hit the pinnacle of their potential.

In such a situation, the leader might be tempted to always give new responsibilities to new personnel hired from the outside. Such actions reinforce the fixed mindset in our current team. In Serengeti, all our employees can apply for open positions and we try to promote people from within our own organization, which encourages a growth mindset. Growth for our employees means growth for our business.

Value learning and perseverance, not just ready-made genius or talent. We try to present skills as learnable and create a space where failure while learning is accepted. We try to place value on development within our own team. When it comes to everyday team workflow, we seek the opportunities to delegate tasks that empower our team to learn and improve their skills.

Glass half-full attitude. We all hit moments where we feel helpless. The test is how we react to that feeling. We can either learn from it and move forward or let it drag us down. People with a growth mindset don’t feel helpless because they know that in order to be successful, you need to be willing to fail hard and then bounce right back up because you learned a lesson from it.

Set the right goals.  According to Dweck, the way teams set goals can have a significant impact on their mindset. Her research shows that people with fixed mindsets are more likely to set performance goals as opposed to development goals. While this may not seem shocking, performance-related goals are more closely tied to things people are already good at. On the other hand, by setting learning goals, employees take on new challenges, experiment, and grow.

In Serengeti, we try that our managers help people find the right balance between performance-based and development-based goals.

Take action. It’s not that people with a growth mindset are able to overcome their fears because they are braver than the rest of us; it’s just that they know fear and anxiety are paralyzing emotions and that the best way to overcome this paralysis is to take action. People with a growth mindset are empowered, and empowered people know that there’s no such thing as a truly perfect moment to move forward. 

Be flexible. Everyone encounters unanticipated adversity. People with an empowered, growth-oriented mindset embrace adversity as a means of improvement, as opposed to something that holds them back. When an unexpected situation challenges an empowered person, they flex until they get results.

Explain suggestions. Complaining is an obvious sign of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset looks for opportunity in everything, so they recognize what can be improved and they explain why they think so. Furthermore, they are able to suggest a solution. 

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