Building a Growth Mindset
I wanna talk about that motivational factor in terms of this growth mindset that Aaron was talking about, this fixed, if you have the fixed mindset and you don't get the leg of the antelope because you don't improve your skills over time. Or you're ostracized from the tribe. Many of you are probably familiar with the work of Carol Dweck. She's at Stanford University. Maybe you've heard of her work. She wrote a book called Mindset. I wanna just focus on one little piece of her work just to make this point, which is she took a group of fifth graders. So she went to a fifth grade elementary school environment as a researcher. Clearly the kids knew that she wasn't the teacher. She's coming in to do a series of little tests. And what she did was she gave them all a test that was around math, logic, reasoning, deduction. And she knew they would do really well, okay? This group of fifth grader, she knew they'd do very, very well on this test, and they did. And so what she did was she divided ...
the group in half, and with half the group she said, "Oh, you did so great on that test. "You must be smart at these problems. "I mean, that's what explains it. "I mean, that's why you did so well." And with the other half of the group, she said, "Wow, you did really, really well on this test. "You must've worked hard at these problems. "I mean, that's what explains it. "You must've worked really, really hard." So on the one hand, we're praising their innate brilliance, their divine intellectual mindset. They solve problems like Newton, you know? This is the way we can get trapped into the way we give praise to our kids, often. Like, you you play soccer like Lionel Messi, for example. And on the other hand, we're praising perseverance, grit, tenacity, hard work, getting to the end, surmounting difficult obstacles. Okay, second test. For the second test, she gave them a choice. You have a choice. You can take a hard test, you can take an easy test, it's really up to you what you wanna do. The kids praised for their innate brilliance and their incredible mind, you must be smart, more often chose what test? What do you guess, Jennifer?
The easier one.
The easier one, exactly. Why? Because if you're told that you're brilliant, you don't wanna be revealed as an imposter. You don't want anyone to know that well, maybe you aren't so brilliant, you know? You need to get the A, so you need to focus on taking those kinds of things that come easy to you. If you're brilliant, the A should come very, very easy to you. Third test. The third test is really hard. And she knows it's hard, and it's kind of a mean trick on the kids. But it's very, very difficult and nobody does very well on this test. The kids praised for their perseverance, their pluck, their tenacity, their hard work, they they do a little bit better. I mean, they work on it a little bit harder, but nobody does that great on the test. The kids praised for their innate brilliance, they abandon it earlier and they do worse. But here's the interesting thing. When the test was over, again she's reminding these kids, "I'm not your teacher. "I'm just a researcher, "and next week I'm gonna be over in Cumberland County "doing the same thing with these other kids. "Just turn to your neighbor and share your scores. "How did you do? "Turn to your neighbor and just say, "Oh, I got a 38 or whatever on the quiz." Those praised for their innate brilliance were more likely to exaggerate, more likely to just lie a little bit about their scores. As she put it, "What's so alarming "is that we took ordinary children "and we made them into liars, "simply by telling them that they were smart." So this is a trap. I mean, when we constantly tell those around us, you're brilliance, you're a genius, that's a burden. And you wanna eradicate that in the workplace. So in the culture that we build around us, be careful about talking about somebody over in IT or engineering like, "Oh, she's a genius." Right? Talk about who has energy, who has passion, who is experimenting. Who's taking chances? Who's reaching out across their landscape and borrowing brilliance? And stay away from calling somebody an absolute brilliance, who works inside their cubicle alone. Because if you get stuck in this kind of situation, you'll get again, the sense of obsolescence. Instead of risking anything new, let's play it safe by continuing our slow decline into obsolescence. And what can happen in an organization when there's power disparities, right? Again, this is about leadership and how do you lead people around you? You wanna eradicate that sense of of power disparity. There's a woman named Deb Gruenfeld. She's another researcher. As you can tell, I like the evidence-driven kind of approach to convincing you. And Deb Gruenfeld, she studies power and the role of power in organizations and what it can do. And so I'll give you one example, one little piece of her work. She took her graduate students and she divided them into groups of three, a group of three. And she told them that they were to work on puzzles around the campus, like say, improving the busing schedule, getting more diversity in the student life, improving the food over in the cafeteria, for example, or improving the financial aid system, whatever it was. And she chose one person of the three to be the boss, the arbitrator, the decider. So in this example, so let's say she gets to be the decider in this example and the other two are creating competing proposals for how to improve these things. So one of them is saying well, we should improve the busing schedule through da da da. And the other one's saying no, we should... So they're positioning their proposals to the person arbitrarily, temporarily placed in a position of power. And in the middle of their little research project, she brings in a plate of five cookies. Now she says, "Don't let me disturb you. "Just keep working. "Sorry, have a cookie." But the cookies are what's really interesting to the researchers, not the work. So if everybody takes a cookie, there's two left. Now every culture I'm familiar with around the world, you can't take the last cookie. So the cookie that's in play here, the cookie they're really examining who takes is the fourth cookie. Overwhelmingly, the person arbitrarily placed in a position of temporary power not only takes the fourth cookie, but they more often chew with their mouth open and leave more crumbs. (audience chuckling) Yeah, it was something the researchers called disinhibited eating. And out of that little piece of research, she distilled three primary characteristics of the power poisoning effect, which is it number one, you begin to think, newly-elevated to a position of power, your ideas, your initiatives, what you're trying to accomplish is more important than those around you. And by extension, the ideas, the priorities, the initiatives of those around you, it's really not as valuable anymore. And number three, the rules no longer apply to me. Sure, there's rules, but now that I'm the boss, I no longer have to abide by these rules. We see it everywhere. We see it in politics, in business, in all kinds of organizations. People start to behave horribly when newly-elevated to a position of power. This is the power poisoning effect, and you need to be acutely aware of it. And I'll give you one, just one small antidote to this, a mental framing. And it's a story that goes like this. It's a little parable. There's a woman. She is at the airport and she's waiting for her flight. And she's got some time to kill, half an hour or so before her flight. And so she goes over to a little shop and she buys a bag of cookies. And she sits, and she's reading her magazine and eating her cookies. And then a young gentleman comes and sits down beside her, but they don't know each other. They've never met. He just sits down, and they don't talk or interact with each other. And he opens his book and he starts to read his book. And a few minutes goes by, and he reaches down between them and he takes a cookie out of the bag. And she thinks, what? What are you doing? Who is this guy? How rude. And then a few minutes goes by, and he takes another cookie, until finally there's only one left. He takes the last cookie, he breaks it in half, he offers her half, and then that's it. She's had it. I mean, who is this jerk, right? And she stands up and she slams her book shut, and she gathers her bags and she heads off to gate 57A and boards her flight. And she gets on her flight and she's really annoyed, and goes down to row 12 and sits in seat E. And then she reaches into her bag to get her book and continue reading, and she finds the bag of cookies that she bought. Right, of course. And the message is assume best intentions. When we start from the standpoint of assuming the best intention of those around us, because one of the failures of communication is the expectation of the belief that it happened. Communication is very, very difficult. And when we start from a position of assuming the best intention of others, we can accelerate and open conversations in a very direct and immediate kind of way.