Thinking Harder and Smarter!

Accountability Growth mindset Personal leadership


Key Point: Having a growth mindset is vital to successfully embrace continuous transformation. However, we need to be sure that we understand what a growth mindset really is. Note the following by Eduardo Briceño, the Co-Founder & CEO of Mindset Works, which he created with Carol Dweck, Lisa Blackwell and others to help people develop as motivated and effective learners. 

“When we ask people to tell us what the growth mindset is, we often get lots of different answers, such as working hard, having high expectations, being resilient, or more general ideas like being open or flexible. But a growth mindset is none of those things. It is the belief that qualities can change and that we can develop our intelligence and abilities. The opposite of having a growth mindset is having a fixed mindset, which is the belief that intelligence and abilities cannot be developed. The reason that this definition of growth mindset is important is that research has shown that this specific belief leads people to take on challenges, work harder and more effectively, and persevere in the face of struggle, all of which makes people more successful learners.”

One aspect of mindset research that intrigues me is the following: “Students often haven’t learned that working hard involves thinking hard, which involves reflecting on and changing our strategies so we become more and more effective learners over time, and we need to guide them to come to understand this. For example, a novice teacher who sees a student trying very hard but not making any progress may think ‘well, at least she’s working hard, so I’ll praise her effort,’ but if the student continues to do what she’s doing, or even more of it, it’s unlikely to lead to success. Instead, the teacher can coach the student to try different approaches to working, studying, and learning, so that she is thinking more deeply (i.e. mentally working harder) to become a better learner, and of course the teacher should do the same: reflect on how to adjust instruction. ‘It’s not just about effort. You also need to learn skills that let you use your brain in a smarter way… to get better at something.’ (Yeager & Dweck, 2012.)”

Leaders in organizations can learn from this insight. People at all levels in companies are asking for more meaningful coaching and often well intended leaders do appreciate and recognize hard work. However, if you want to be a great coach, as noted in the research above, help people learn how to think harder and better! Ultimately coaching is aimed at improving performance. And learning how to think harder and better changes the mistakes we accept and make. Too often organization leaders (in the same spirit of encouraging learning), suggest that mistakes are always “good,” and this can confuse learners, as not all mistakes are the same. As an example, the people at Mindset Works are encouraging folks to start distinguishing stretch mistakes, sloppy mistakes, aha-moment mistakes, and high-stakes mistakes



Sloppy mistakes are connected with sloppy thinking and both the intentionally and learning outcome is low. So, accepting those mistakes does little for anyone. Stretch mistakes are the highest in both of learning opportunity and intentionality. There is much to be learned from stretch mistakes.

Character Moves:

  1. Remember the definition of a growth mindset. We ALL can grow intellectually, emotionally and by capability. Massive social transformation requires each of us to have a growth mindset. If you are stuck in a fixed mindset, then enjoy staying in that position.
  1. Having a growth mindset requires thinking harder and better rather than just working harder. Yes, we can further develop our intelligence and capabilities. But, it requires thinking differently along with doing differently. Challenge yourself about how you are developing as a thinker!
  1. Not all mistakes are created equally. Learn more about what a stretch mistake is versus other mistakes, and relevance to accelerating a growth mindset.

Harder and smarter in The Triangle 


One Millennial View: Not only are growth mindsets extremely appreciated and crucial in the workplace, but fixed mindsets are transparent. It’s very obvious to workers when their leaders aren’t thinking hard, and just going through motions. It makes us feel equally stuck, and wonder “how can this place ever progress if our leaders aren’t willing to?” A leader’s lack of a growth mindset isn’t only keeping him or her stuck, it can negatively impact the whole team.

– Garrett Rubis

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis