Growth Mindset and the Culture of High-Performing Teams

August 13, 2021

Asia’s fastest growing companies (from Gojek to Ninjavan) are building their talent pool around leveraging a new mindset: the growth mindset.

By investing in growth-minded leaders, these companies execute fast, but learn and innovate even faster—a hallmark of hyper-growth organisations. Is yours doing the same?

We spoke to Dr Susan Chen, Head of People at Riot Games and former Head of L&D at Gojek, to investigate what is a growth mindset and how leaders can change people’s mindsets to achieve greater success.

What is a growth mindset?

To have a growth mindset is to understand that your abilities and talents can be learned, stretched and developed, according to the American psychologist, Carol Dweck, who coined the term in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Today, whenever people and business leaders learn of Carol’s work, they start to ditch the fixed mindset—the idea that success depends on “innate” talent—in favour of the growth mindset. In time, they come to possess several qualities:

  • They embrace challenges and persist despite failure,
  • learn from criticisms and mistakes,
  • and are inspired by the success of others.

As a result, growth-minded people are usually able to reach ever-higher levels of achievement, compared to peers who might be equally skilled but have a fixed mindset. Likewise, companies that embraced the growth mindset, such as Microsoft, were able to see similar outcomes.

In the long run, adding growth-minded people to your team will be worth it. They are far more likely to persevere and solve many of the organisation’s grand challenges.

Building a team of growth-minded leaders

We’re used to hiring people for their skills and past accomplishments. These are no doubt important considerations when hiring, but apart from what’s in their CVs, have you also considered their growth potential? Do they have a growth mindset?

One way to determine whether they are growth-minded is to peer into their thought process. You can try something that Dr Susan often asks potential hires: “Here’s the problem our company wants to solve… How would you approach it? Walk me through your thought process.”

Watch how the candidate reacts. Were they stumped and thought, “I don’t think I can solve this problem”, or did they say, “I think doing so-and-so may work, but I’m willing to give it a shot and learn along the way”? From their response, you’d have an idea if they possess a growth mindset—and if you should eventually hire them. 

How to nurture growth mindsets

Leaders set the tone and pace for developing their team members’ growth mindsets. 

To do this well, Dr Susan shared that it’s crucial for leaders to embrace a culture of psychological safety. Without it, people are hesitant to make mistakes and will make developing a growth mindset hard. The magic of having a growth mindset happens when we can make mistakes and learn from them.

Here 3 things that Dr Susan does to accelerate learning and nurture her colleague’s growth mindsets:

  1. Avoid the temptation to jump into answers. Part of having a growth mindset is to be curious about possibilities and entertaining multiple solutions.
  2. Find moments to  walk through their thought processes. Growth-minded people love learning how to improve. By coaching them on how they think, you’re helping them learn to be better problem solvers.
  3. Be a role model for learning. Leading by example never fails. Whether you’re learning how to cook the tastiest omelette or trying to pick up the best practices in remote management, share your passion for learning with your peers.

What lies ahead

People with growth mindsets constantly stretch their abilities and thinking, get excited from what is challenging, and most importantly, value progress over obtaining immediate perfection. They care more about becoming better than they were yesterday and hyper-growth companies operate in similar ways.

That said, how are you thinking about your own growth now? After hearing from us and Dr Susan, we’d like to challenge you to push your personal growth as a leader today and to enable those around you to learn, make mistakes, and grow together.

As Carol Dweck puts it: “Love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep learning.”