The Power of an Agile Mindset | TechWell

The Power of an Agile Mindset

I remember when I discovered the work of Carol Dweck, a psychologist and one of the world's leading researchers in the field of motivation. She defined how to foster a “growth” mindset—what I now call an agile mindset—and how focusing on developing your abilities can boost your achievements. It explained so much about my own internal, personal struggles and helped me understand why some teams and organizations grapple with failure and learning.

It also shed light on the STEM domains, or science, technology, engineering, and math, and pointed to an answer to the question, "Where are the women?" We know the world produces lots of bright little girls. We also know that statistically, a certain percentage of them should choose careers in these areas. So, where are they?

Dweck spent years studying the way people perceive and think about intelligence and talent. They tend to hold one of two mindsets:

  • People are born with a fixed amount of any ability, and this remains the same over time. It's like height: there's nothing you can do to change it
  • Yes, of course people have different gifts, but we can improve through hard work and determination. We're not saying anyone can be an Einstein or a Beethoven, but we can, with effort, be better tomorrow than we are today 

These are called fixed and growth mindsets, and the fact that people think this way doesn't seem to be particularly startling. We all hold one or the other for various domains at various times in our lives.

What's surprising is that we tend to favor one over the other, and that direction changes everything. It's astounding what a difference it makes in the goals we choose, in how we learn, in the way we regard failure, in our reaction to challenge, and in our judgment of others.

The biggest impact is in how we treat our children, especially those bright little girls. When we have a fixed mindset, we tend to label our children and accept girls’ best efforts in those STEM fields, rather than encouraging them to try a different approach, learn more, and develop their abilities. In turn, this fosters a fixed mindset in them, and that impacts their choices in life.

Perception plays a large part in determining what we’re capable of. Keeping a growth mindset—an agile mindset—can make all the difference in developing your abilities.

Linda Rising is presenting the keynote The Power of an Agile Mindset at the Agile Dev West 2016 conference.

Up Next

About the Author

TechWell Insights To Go

(* Required fields)

Get the latest stories delivered to your inbox every week.