Work Smarter//

‘Growth Mindset’ Cultures like Microsoft’s Drive Organizational Transformation, Researchers Say. Here’s How This Has Measurable Results for Companies.

It has measurable results for companies.

lovelyday12 / Shutterstock
lovelyday12 / Shutterstock

Growth mindset grew out of primary school classrooms, entered corporate offices, and now heads back into the research lab. 

For example, as we’ve noted, Microsoft credits lots of its turnaround to growth mindset, a concept drawn out of the research of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck about how young children (and later adults) react to challenges. 

Now, new research from Dr. Elizabeth Canning at Washington State University and Dr. Mary Murphy at Indiana University  lends empirical weight to growth mindset, especially as it relates to the way organizations operate.

In the research there’s a distinction between growth mindset (“I keep failing. I need to learn more about the optimal approach to solve this.”) and fixed mindset (“I keep failing. I’m not smart enough to get this right”). 

It turns out that the cultural context that an organization offers its employees can be fixed or growth-based — and this, in turn, affects the way employees see themselves and how they work at the company. 

Canning and Murphy are the researchers who posit this and extend growth mindset to the context of an entire organization’s perceived mindset. Their research started with the question of how organizational mindset changes the way employees interact, trust, and commit to their company.

Organizational mindset becomes a part of individual employee mindset

Canning and Murphy told Business Insider that one surprising result of their research was how “strongly and consistently” organizational mindset set the tone for cultural norms, which provide context for an organization’s growth and success.

Specifically, employees who indicated that they worked for a company with a fixed mindset culture perceived that their company had less effective collaboration and teamwork, less intellectual exploration (through innovation and risk-taking), and less ethical behavior. 

“As a consequence, these employees were less trusting of their company and less committed to it — important factors for organizational productivity, job satisfaction, and employee turnover,” the researchers explained.

Within the paper, published in the prestigious Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the researchers point out that not only do employees change the way they present themselves based on how they perceive organizational mindset, they also reward other employees for behaving according to the same mindset. 

One way to picture this would be a feedback loop between organizational and individual mindset, where the attitude of the firm reflects back on the employee. This operates as a sort of mindset echo chamber that leads to the growth or detriment of the company.

Tracking the movement of organizational mindset, and recommendations for founders and leaders

The point of origin for organizational mindset is communication from leaders, supervisors, and teams. This translates not only to explicitly defining a mindset, like Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella does time and time again, but also in the policies and practices within an organization.

If an organization says it operates on a growth mindset, but employees don’t feel that in standards for hiring, evaluation, and promotion, the actual context remains fixed— and employees and the public are quite perceptive in ascertaining a company’s true organizational mindset.

“One interesting thing that we found is that even people with virtually no experience with an organization can perceive an organization’s mindset just by reading publicly available company materials, like mission statements and job ads,” the researchers said.   

Still, they qualify that employees’ perceptions matter most. Their research results show that employee perceptions associate most closely with the company’s cultural and behavioral standards. 

For future research, Canning and Murphy want to answer how organizational mindset diffuses through an organization.

Recently Microsoft outlined a set of global standards for its managers based on growth mindset. As corporate vice president of talent, learning, and insights Joe Whittinghill told us, growth mindset is where everything starts for the tech giant. 

“Our fundamental belief is that our culture transformation and our company transformation and where we are today and where we are headed is absolutely grounded in a deep understanding of a growth mindset,” he said.

Originally published on Business Insider.

More from Business Insider:

Marc Benioff gave a protester who interrupted his speech 30 seconds to talk, with a giant countdown clock displayed on the conference screen, ‘because I value free speech’

Bill Gates says he’s happier at 63 than he was at 25 because he does 4 simple things

Nearly 3 in 4 women in tech have mulled leaving the field, signaling the industry still has a gender diversity problem

Follow us here and subscribe here for all the latest news on how you can keep Thriving.

Stay up to date or catch-up on all our podcasts with Arianna Huffington here.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Community//

Why Growth Mindset Matters at Work

by Gill Crossland Thackray
Community//

What is Mindset?

by Gill Crossland Thackray
Work Smarter//

10 Tips and Tricks For a Growth Mindset Team

by Viv Thackray

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.