The Psychology of a Growth Mindset

Tuesday, 23rd June 2020

Guest blog by Hannah Evans, Impact – Psychology for Business.

Following our webinar which was hosted by pro-manchester and Virgin Money on 23rd July, we wanted to share some of our thoughts and reflections regarding building a Growth Mindset.

“It all depends on how we look at things, and not on how things are in themselves” – C. G. Jung

Whether you’re thinking about job performance, starting your own business, getting through the pandemic or being a parent, having a growth mindset can make the difference between success and failure.

What is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset is when an individual believes that their intelligence, talent and skills are not fixed but can be developed through dedication and hard work. Mistakes are seen as opportunities to improve. It is not only individuals, but organisations too who can have a growth mindset. The organisation fosters a culture that views every employee as having great potential where they are encouraged to develop and are acknowledged and rewarded for their improvements. It becomes the norm that everyone is striving to achieve more and becoming more successful.

If you are someone with a fixed mindset, you may  have certain goals that you would like to achieve, for example, a promotion, closing a deal, completing a project etc. Imagine that unfortunately you do not obtain this goal that you have been striving to achieve. If you have a fixed mindset you are likely to see it as a failure, and you give up. Everything is black and white – either a failure or a success and you are left feeling pleased or disappointed.

What does the research show?

If you are someone with a growth mindset who has experienced the same set back as the person above, you think ‘not yet’. You understand that you are on a learning curve and that your abilities can grow. Known for her work on the mindset psychological trait, Professor Carol Dweck from Stanford University, calls this the ‘power of yet’. Interestingly, Dweck found that employees who were part of growth mindset organisations are 65% more likely to say that the company supports risk taking; 49% more likely to say that the company fosters innovation; 47% more likely to see their colleagues as trustworthy; and 34% more likely to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the company, compared to employees in a fixed mindset organisation. These employee engagement indicators are positively related to higher financial returns so having a growth mindset organisation pays off.

Moser and colleagues studied brain activity and found neurological evidence for a growth mindset. They found that individuals with a growth mindset had heightened awareness and attention to mistakes they made and so made fewer mistakes and improved their performance in the subsequent tasks. Therefore, a ‘not yet’ mindset changes the way the brain processes mistakes.

How to create a growth mindset

Now we know what a growth mindset is and the neurological evidence for it. Let’s understand how to encourage a growth mindset for individuals and in organisations…

Praise Wisely

  • Praise other people’s hard work, strategies, focus and perseverance. This encourages resilience and ‘challenge thinking’ because more emphasis is put on the learning process and so encourages more sustained learning and greater perseverance.
  • Praising talent and intelligence is unhelpful. Don’t give praise and awards for being correct, fastest or most successful. Instead praise the effort put in.
  • Ensure that failure is translated into ‘not yet’ instead of ‘I can’t’. People will begin to realise the goal is still possible and worth putting effort into achieving despite an initial set back, so this mindset increases confidence and perseverance.
  • As an organisation there needs to be focus on developing a continuous learning culture. Employees need to be willing to explore new opportunities without the fear of failure. Mistakes should be seen as learning opportunities for future improvement instead of being punished.

Change Mindsets

  • A study by Blackwell, Trzesniewski & Dweck found that by simply telling students that by trying to tackle difficult maths problems, they could become more intelligent led to the students putting more effort in and getting significantly better grades. However, the students who were not told this showed a decrease in the grades they were achieving. Therefore, simply having a positive and resilient mindset can lead to better performance.
  • When leaders create a growth mindset environment with terms such as ‘yet’ or ‘not yet’ you can change the mindset of individuals from thinking that lots of effort and difficulty means you’re not capable into thinking of it as an opportunity to improve. Then every challenge starts to become an opportunity to thrive and succeed.

Learning together & Share Knowledge

  • All employees should be encouraged to continuously learn new skills as a team. If learning and improvement is a company-wide goal it creates a supportive environment. Everyone will at some point make mistakes or need help when learning something novel. However, if you’re surrounded by people who have also overcome these challenges and have succeeded, it will help inspire you to see success as a ‘not yet’ rather than a failure.
  • Your colleagues who have mastered the skill will also be in a great position to help you. This is also beneficial for them as helping to teach another person the skill will help to solidify their new knowledge.
  • Organisations should be encouraged to share knowledge so everyone can continuously learn and improve. It’s important to ensure that knowledge silos are removed, and that communication can flow.

How can Impact help you?

If you are not a pro-Manchester member but are interested in the topic subscribe to our bulletin here. We will release the webinar recording on next month’s bulletin!


  1. Moser, J. S., Schroder, H. S., Heeter, C., Moran, T. P., & Lee, Y. H. (2011). Mind your errors: Evidence for a neural mechanism linking growth mind-set to adaptive posterior adjustments. Psychological Science22(12), 1484-1489.
  2. Blackwell, L. S., Trzesniewski, K. H., & Dweck, C. S. (2007). Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: A longitudinal study and an intervention. Child development78(1), 246-263.