Those amongst us with what Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University calls a “growth mindset” are likely to be the winners in our rapidly digitising and constantly changing world of work.

They fundamentally believe that with the right learning strategies and some good old-fashioned hard work, they could learn anything.  They have few qualms about learning very different skills, and about transitioning from, say English or sports science to, say software development or UX design.

And they don’t shy away from difficulty. They believe their brains are like muscles, and so the harder, and the more strategically they work, the smarter they become. Crucially, they tend to display a love of learning, and the “true grit” that highly successful people always tend to have.

Clearly, we must all have this growth mindset to keep learning, unlearning and relearning in the way our fast and constantly changing digital economy demands.

Unfortunately, here in the UK, our education policy and culture have traditionally encouraged what Professor Dweck calls a “fixed mindset”  –  the belief that intelligence and other basic qualities are traits which are fixed at birth and there isn’t that much you can do about it.  Those with this mindset fundamentally believe that success depends more on the IQ and innate talent you were born with rather than effective learning strategies and hard work. And, as British educators have observed, when, say Maths or science gets difficult, kids with this mindset are quick to assume they don’t have what it takes.  They don’t see the point in trying.  So they give up.

Carol Dweck

A September 2013 study commissioned by the British Council involving 130 education policy makers concluded that this fixed mindset  “partly accounts for the long standing socio economic gap in pupil attainment at all stages of English schooling”.

And clearly, this fixed mindset also robs us of confidence, motivation and optimism at a time when we all need to be learning new high-level skills in our more technologically sophisticated world of work. It presents “a huge psychological roadblock” (in Bill Gates’ words)  to opportunity.

A Future Think random survey of 100 adults who grew up in the Caribbean found that 87 had a growth mindset. This is encouraging.  But those of us of Caribbean heritage who are British born and bred may well have absorbed the fixed mindset from Britain’s classrooms and wider culture.

The good news is that mindsets can and do change.  Indeed, in recent times, individual schools in both the state and independent sectors are attempting to change mindsets.  But embracing the growth mindset in a fixed mindset saturated culture such as ours is no easy task. There is no quick fix and it requires considerable self-awareness and self-management.

Our next article in the series Opportunity Knocks will shine a spotlight on the technology-enabled discoveries in neuroscience helping many to embrace the empowering growth mindset.

Test your mindset here:

Learn more about the growth mindset, here:

Executive Director,
Future Think,
Penny Carballo-Smith