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Posted in: General

If you think you have a growth mindset, then you can't have one

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  • dancottrell1

    I'm sure that there are plenty of our community who have been following the recent "growth set" revolution.

    I wonder how many have actually read Dr Dweck's original reports or her subsequent comments on the new industry that's being developed around it.

    The ideas around growth and fixed mindset have become so muddled that I think we've forgotten the real impact it can have on coaching.

    First, it does a good job of condensing positive environmental theory into some more useful (powerful) language.

    Second, there's not much empirical research to back up the specific findings. There is to support some of theories surrounding the findings.

    Third, the definition of a fixed mindset is that you have a belief in a system and you don't want to change it. So if you believe you have a "growth mindset", then you have in fact got a fixed mindset too.

    I simply don't believe it's a system, formula or method as it stands. Dweck's suggestions have extremely apposite to lots of difficult situations. I doubt she felt she was leading a revolution when she published her work.

    In essence, be prepared to change your mind. Also, prepare to stick at something until you think you need to change your mind. Listen, reflect, challenge, work hard...now, is that news to good coaches?

  • andrewb62

    I read Dweck‘s “Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential”, and I believe in (what might now be an unfashionable definition of) the “Growth mindset” - “...talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching [or, perhaps as importantly, good learning] and persistence...” 

    For me, growth mindset, can be formulated simply enough: 

    • Improvement is possible if you put the work in. 
    • If you do not make an effort (if you believe that talent is innate, and that no amount of work will change that), improvement is unlikely.
  • Frithy77

    Hi Dan

    Not sure if you've seen this but this summary was shared via Dr. Abbe Brady and Dr Bridget Grenville-Cleave, the whole book is available on Amazon having been released recently. They made this chapter available free of charge as a sample.

    As you may know we do alot of work on growth mindset across multiple contexts. Whilst we never really intended to write a book on growth mindset and coaching it soon became necessary due to the frequent misrepresentation of Carol's work. 

    A concern is that organisations and high profile individuals are putting it (growth mindset) out there as part of programmes without really having an understanding of what it means for them and their coaching... or indeed how they develop their coaches and themselves. 

    I think it is an important piece of work for coaches to understand however we should all get a thorough understanding of it first.



  • dancottrell1

    I agree with the sentiment but I don't think it's a mindset. It's an environment. 

    Great teachers know that improvement isn't always possible if you put the work in. Instead, they refocus and encourage, sense achievement, support when things don't go well.

    There's so much talk about mental health at the moment. In that case, we have to recognise that we need to be happy with good things happening. That's not always improvement. 

    In terms of effort, we need to focus on productivity not busy fools.

    Of course, part of the process is understanding that you "get out of it what you've put into it".

    Finally, we are not all wired the same. Some in our groups don't want to be pushed. They will find their own path, when and if they want to. Not everyone wants to climb their Everest. 

    Wrapping all this up into a "Growth Mindset", frankly, isn't subtle enough. ConnectedCoaches proves that we need to keep thinking again about difference and progress. That might seem tautological. However, that's my point. If you believe in a growth mindset, by definition, you don't have a growth mindset.

    Let's be very careful how we define, praise and encourage effort. 

  • dancottrell1

    I agree that Dweck's work has been misrepresented on lots of levels - hence "false theories".

    I just can't see the conclusions are not any different from what has been recognised as good coaching environments.

    Masses of confirmation bias in all of this.

    I read this and your article on linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/debunking-five-growth-mindset-myths-jeremy-frith/

    My point is: Don't call it something. Don't create an industry around it. Just get out there and coach well. What does that look like? Flip, read all the posts in ConnectedCoaches then come up with a neat answer!

  • Frithy77

    As coaches, teachers and leaders we shape the environment our players compete in. We know coaches and leaders with a fixed view of any relevant skills or attributes important to their domain are likely to create an environment that is less innovative, tolerant, supportive and invest less in developing people. Also that they are likely to have higher levels of absence and negative behaviour. In contrast to organisations perceived by those within it to operate with a growth mindset that display the opposite behaviours. 

    Working with students at present we hold debates about Trump compared Obama as leaders. What might it be like to work for the two different leaders, comparing quotes:

    Obama (Final speech as president)

    "I am asking you to believe.  Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours."

    Trump - numerous quotes relating to IQ.

    I agree very much that there is a constant need for an ongoing constant conversation about how we develop coaches and players. I also agree that the environment is fundamental to shaping our beliefs, that its not simply about effort, but focused attention to the process of learning. Fostering a growth mindset and a belief in our capacity for change is all about messages and those messages come from a myriad of sources, not only praise. 

    One of the big issues we see is people framing non compliant behaviour as having a fixed mindset which is absolutely wrong. 

    We make the point that making the same mistakes repeatedly is obviously not learning. Its about putting praise (if any) and feedback on to the process of learning. By doing that and supporting students/ players to recognise their progress we create the belief in their capacity for change. 

    Growth mindset does not suggest we are all wired the same, it's the belief that we can all learn in a way that is self referenced. It's not saying that everyone has the same potential. We must help people to set realistic goals.

    We work in a number of special educational provisions with children with complex needs from physical disability to SEN. From their perspective its about not putting a ceiling on what they might achieve be that in terms of skills, independence or relationships. Its about noticing the small incremental improvements and helping them to focus on their next steps, be that being able to grip a pen, developing their ability to regulate their responses or to learn a skill.

    In terms of mental health we know that adolescents with a fixed view of their personal traits are more exposed to mental health difficulties, at the heart of that lies a belief that they themselves, another significant person or a situation can't change. If in someway I believe "I'm not good enough", if I don't hold the belief that I can change then it's likely I'll display helpless behaviours and hold quite a deterministic view of the world. That has been shown to fuel chronic aggression, helplessness and make people less likely to engage in a restorative process.

    I take your point that we need to sit back and be very present at times and notice all that is good, absolutely. There are a number of individuals that become too intense and lose sight of other things in their life in the name of constant improvement. Thus conveying the message of "be happy with what you've done for now, relax and take some time out" is helpful. It's being aware that we don't convey the message of "you can't improve, just be happy where you are", as this will not be helpful in the long run. 

    I'd also acknowledge that everyone will have different passions. Just because someone doesn't engage in the same way as another doesn't mean one has a fixed mindset and the other a growth. I probably have a growth mindset about music (I certainly don't about singing mind!), but I just choose to put time and effort in to things that I enjoy more. Absolutely not everyone will want to climb Everest, that doesn't really relate to growth mindset though.

    We actively encourage schools, clubs and organisations to not call it 'growth mindset' and to evolve the behaviours in to something authentic to their context. That could be a motto, their organisational values, the philosophical approach of leaders or operationally how they may conduct appraisals or review. However there needs to be congruence between the values/ motto and how the organisation operates. The reality is that its out there now and people will get hooked, so it needs be discussed and understood better.

    I absolutely also agree that growth mindset is incredibly subtle. It's all about messages and what we as individuals and collectively give off, it's incredibly complex and not the only psychological research that exists. Dweck is though cited in 40,000 academic articles and their are growing research areas relating to mental health, business, sport, education, peace, restorative justice and happiness.  

    From a professional perspective my suggestion would be that developing the belief in our capacity and that of others to change is vital. That doesn't mean we always have to. Examining what we do that supports that belief is the fundamental. 

  • Frithy77

    Looking at good coaching, teaching or leadership through the lens of growth mindset is absolutely a good way to go. The subtlety of working with anyone is to help them think about what 'good' is, what they already do that is 'good' but what they might want to change. 

    We should do the same with regards to mental health, wellbeing, gender equality and other pertinent topics.

    If you take education as an example. What is actually sometimes put forward as 'good' isn't actually always 'good'. Thus casting a critical eye and using the mindset lens to look through what we do is a helpful process to go through. It might be someone decides at the end of that process that changing something isn't appropriate, that's ok, but they do it from an informed basis of understanding its potential impact. 

  • dancottrell1

    First, this is why ConnectedCoaches is an excellent forum.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your reply. It develops, makes sense of and deepens the debate, without rancour or one-up-manship. 

    Second, controversially perhaps, Trump represents a form of "growth mindset" in a sense. He's challenged a lot of the prescribed methods of approach to problems. Whether we believe him to be right, well, that's a different matter of course. He has also quite clearly sat back on a number of what might be thought as fixed mindset ideas.

    I will reflect and reply in time. Enjoying very much this engagement.

  • Frithy77

    Hi Dan

    Thanks also for posting, it is an absolutely massive topic. My reflection as a coach educator is that I much prefer doing that job than the consultancy on growth mindset, however I do recognise I am a better educator because of what I've learnt and changed about how I deliver any programme that I run... the danger for me is growth mindset, in many cases is always about someone else needing one.

    Absolutely on Trump, the danger is we put everyone in to a box and label them, a great conversation.


  • jswain

    Thanks guys for sharing your thoughts and conversation, I have found it really useful.

    For me, I found the supporting material (links and chapter) really helpful in understanding the different viewpoints that have been expressed.   I see (and hear) too many coaches presenting their view on a subject without either stating that its their own opinion or providing the signposts to that particular view.  Not that there is anything wrong with someone's opinion but in terms of appreciation for, and evaluation of, a particular argument it helps me if I know where it is coming from.


  • robertepetersen

    I see it similarly, Andrew.  The diagram I keep handy is from Dweck's Olympic Coach article.  The diagram is entitled "Diagram of Mindsets by Nigel Holmes".  I value it mostly because it fits so many of my trap-shooting students.  I can see the behaviors listed there and figure out pretty quickly which mindset they tend to operate from.  From there, I can coach them into more productive ways to think about their training and performance.  I don't see a "system" to believe or not believe in, but rather a framework that helps me get more out of my scarce coaching time.  If I can nudge a student away from Fixed and toward Growth, I can help them improve more quickly.  If they can look back to previous seasons and see that they are less fixed and more growth today, then they are allowed to "think they have a growth mindset" and also to "have one". 

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