‘Growth Mindset’ + ‘Anti-Fragile’ = A dream team
Recently I read two great books Antifragile by Nassim Taleb and Mindset by Carol Dweck. Antifragile is a new concept that opposes the general belief that opposite of fragile is ‘robust’. Author proposes that a true opposite of fragile is something that gains strength with stress vs. robust that resists stress at the best. For example, organic systems such as muscle is a great example of anti-fragile systems those get stronger as you stress them repeatedly.
‘Mindset’ is a mental framework that can be applied to any pursuit in life. The author argues that mindset is what makes individuals and team to achieve greatness and not the natural abilities. People with growth mindset embrace challenge and accept any failures that come with them, while people with fixed mindset focus on proving oneself. In simple terms, individuals with fixed mindset want to appear strong (a hero with natural talent), and seek for approval hence they don’t take challenges where they might face failures that might make them look weak. On the other hand, growth mindset encourages individuals to openly accept deficiency, and see failure as an opportunity to improve hence they pursue challenges for self-satisfaction and push the boundaries beyond what they know they are good at.
We all dream of building a company (or a team) that would not succumb to stress but it learns and grows with stress. In other words, we inherently want to build an Antifragile company. Such an organization constantly takes risks, is open to failures and learns from failures, thus pushing boundaries – key characteristics of growth mind set. Adding two together, if we want to build such an anti-fragile organization then, clearly, we want to build a company with a growth mindset. Here is my simple summary that involves four pivots to foster growth mindset in a team. (BTW, the book is lot more than my simple framing)
BELIEF: ‘Becoming’ over ‘Being’
We should believe that ability and talent is not something that we are born with, our ability is developed overtime through effort. As a team, we have to try, fail and learn new things, i.e knowledge and skills is a constant state a work in progress vs. a static state. One of key metrics should be a) did we push the boundary? and b) what did we learn?
APPROACH: ‘Learning’ Over ‘Flawless’
If we agree to accept the fact that we are ‘work in progress’, then we shouldn’t strive to look like a hero. By accepting that failure is part of any challenge, we would be more open and transparent to expose our weaknesses and accept others’. The book gives an example: In Hong Kong, among the students who moved from local system to a 100% English medium schools, the students, who accepted that they needed help with English, did way better than similar students who didn’t openly accept they needed help.
ACT: ‘Fighting’ Over ‘Satisfying’
A lot of times, teams undertake activities to satisfy their bosses, instead of fighting the market reality. Companies lose touch with reality and eventually would fail as employees repeat process, activities and release products to satisfy others within the company not the market. Let us focus on fighting the market forces not pursue set of activities that reinforce our self-worth among bosses and team.
MEASURE: ‘Effort’ Over ‘Ability’
To encourage learning, we need to praise the effort not the ability. The book shows many examples and experiments that demonstrate how praising someone’s ability reduces their willingness to seek challenges and grow. Praising ability pushes people to strive to appear to be a hero with extraordinarily abilities who can win effortlessly. On the other hand, encouraging effort leads better risk taking an growing. The hardest part is to implement formal and informal mechanisms that would foster such culture within a team.