In times of fierce change and endless plate shifting in our environment, having a growth mindset is foundational to shaping and developing who you are as a leader – your perspectives, decision making ability and capacity to move quickly. That means taking a position of being open to growth and learning, and having curiosity. The concept of the growth mindset is based on research by Paul A. O’Keefe, Carol S. Dweck and Gregory M. Walton, showing that some people lean more toward the view that interests are inherent in a person—a fixed mindset of interest. Others lean more toward the view that interests can be developed and that, with commitment and investment, they can grow over time—a growth mindset of interest.
In the Harvard Business Review article, “Having a Growth Mindset Makes it Easier to Develop New Interests,” the O’Keefe, Dweck and Walton described some of the advantages of having a growth mindset. It can be helpful for making connections across areas and generating novel ideas, and such cross-disciplinary problem-solving is certainly an advantage in the business world. “Innovation requires both reaching across fields and, often, acquiring more than a surface-level understanding of those fields. This means that when people reach across fields they must maintain that interest even when the material becomes complex and challenging. A growth mindset of interest may help promote this kind of resilience.”
Especially in today’s environment of consistent shifting of business models, priorities and expectations, having a frame of mind that is open to new interests, innovation, and differing and contrarian viewpoints can boost growth your growth as a leader. When you have a growth mindset, you’re curiously engaged in understanding how the world works, and how people work. You’re coming at situations from a perspective of, “I wonder how that happened? I wonder why that person thought that? I wonder how this was created that way?”
An essential ingredient of a growth mindset is curiosity. In the article, Why Curiosity Matters, one author makes this case for curiosity: “Most of the breakthrough discoveries and remarkable inventions throughout history, from flints for starting a fire to self-driving cars … are the result of curiosity. … When our curiosity is triggered, we think more deeply and rationally about decisions and come up with more creative solutions. … Studies have found that curiosity is associated with less defensive reactions to stress and less aggressive reactions to provocation. We also perform better when we’re curious.”
In the article the Five Dimensions of Curiosity, it expounds on some of the benefits of curiosity:
“It enhances intelligence: In one study, highly curious children aged three to 11 improved their intelligence test scores by 12 points more than their least-curious counterparts did. It increases perseverance, or grit: Merely describing a day when you felt curious has been shown to boost mental and physical energy by 20% more than recounting a time of profound happiness. And curiosity propels us toward deeper engagement, superior performance, and more meaningful goals: Psychology students who felt more curious than others during their first class enjoyed lectures more, got higher final grades, and subsequently enrolled in more courses in the discipline. … In a survey of 3,000 workers … 84% believe that curiosity catalyzes new ideas, 74% think it inspires unique, valuable talents, and 63% think it helps one get promoted.
The authors go on to talk about curiosity in five different “dimensions”:
- Deprivation sensitivity—recognizing a gap in knowledge, the filling of which offers relief.
- Joyous exploration—being consumed with wonder about the fascinating features of the world.
- Social curiosity—talking, listening, and observing others to learn what they are thinking and doing.
- Stress tolerance—a willingness to accept and even harness the anxiety associated with novelty.
- Thrill seeking—being willing to take physical, social, and financial risks to acquire varied, complex, and intense experiences.
The top four dimensions were found to improve work outcomes. What was even more fascinating was they found that stress tolerance and socially curious were most critical. When someone doesn’t have ability to tolerate stress they don’t actively seek out challenges, have an inquiry based approach, look for resources and share an opposing view so they are more likely to be resigned, exhausted and disengage. If someone is more socially curious they are better at solving issues with colleagues, receive support and are more impactful at building trust, connection, respect and safety. People who are more stress tolerant and socially curious are also more innovative and creative.
A growth mindset and curiosity go hand in hand. It’s worth asking yourself in what ways you are curious, and thinking about how you can cultivate your own curiosity, as well as encourage an environment of curiosity and exploration in your workplace.
- Do you think that you are more inclined toward a “fixed” or “growth” mindset? If a fixed mindset, brainstorm how you could think about or do things differently to move toward a growth mindset.
- Think about the five “dimensions” of curiosity mentioned above. Which of these do you connect with? How could you explore these further, and thus cultivate your curiosity?
Feel free to share your findings. I’m curious as to your answers and own learnings. We will exploring these issues and more in our Ready Zone Executive Inner Circle Group that starts in April 2021. If you are interested, feel free to message me directly.
Esther Weinberg is the Chief Leadership Development Officer and Founder of The Ready Zone. To dive deeper into the ideas and strategies offered in this article, complete our Needs Assessment and we’ll schedule time to connect.
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