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It is not a secret to anyone that the result always directly depends on how we think and how we appertain to the task. If we are focused on problems, fear of loss and being a loser in the eyes of others, it can never get around to performing the task. In another way, if we are concentrated directly on a goal, we plan how to get it done. Of course, we are aware of the possible difficulties, but we are not scared of them. In brief, that is the essence of the growth mindset concept: we overcome multiple obstacles but we reach the goal. In this article, I’ll explain what growth mindset actually is, why this mental model is a crucial component of startup success and how to develop it in own team.
We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.
The term was introduced by Carol Duque, the Stanford University Professor of Psychology, the author of book ‘Mindset’.
Growth mindset, or growth thinking, is a person’s conviction about his intellectual abilities and their power to perfect throughout life in case if he/she makes some efforts for that.
Unlike fixed mindset, that is a belief that the human intellect is a fixed trait, growth mindset is predicated on the constant development of a person.
People who have a formed growth thinking are not scared of difficulties and losses. Just the other way round, they react on such things very positively. Negative experience is a very important experience, and in-bound movement is almost impossible without it. Growth mindset is a positive attitude towards changes, a person’s ability to leave the comfort zone easily. The thing that growth mindset people are scared of is stagnation and the lack of progress.
To give an example, each of us, perhaps, ever had a life period related to videogames. We developed and upgraded the hero, made him a sort of ideal in a fictive world. Growth mindset is all the same, but in real life, and you develop not a fictional character, you upgrade yourself.
Another practical example of growth thinking is the situation when you set yourself an uphill fight and go towards it. My example from real life. I have always been a little jealous of people with exceptional physical fitness. They are more energetic, fine fettled, in a cheerful mood and, normally, beach-ready body. For the reason that I have always had problems with the PE lesson, most of the qualifying standards I reached on either an average level or even below average, so I was biased towards playing sports.
There was a time when running a sprint was a realistic but very tiresome objective for me. I remember how a few minutes past the start my legs became rubbery, shortness of breath appeared… If any somebody told me that I can run 12–13 kilometres without a pause, I would never believe it.
Nonetheless, now I can run such distance hands-down and feel that this is not a limit at all. How did I reach that? Regular trainings, perseverance and self-confidence all together do exceptional things.
Once, there was the end of February, I went for an evening walk and decided to try interval running: a few minutes run replace quick march. I did like it. I was going for such runs for a week and somewhere around the 5th day I realized that there is no need to stop. I was not tired and could run farther.
Gradually, I began increasing the distance and now shortness of breath does not appear even at the twelfth kilometre!
Euphoria from the first positive results did not allow me to go astray, and the goal of becoming slim and beautiful gave me motivation.
To sum up, we get three factors underlying growth thinking.
The first is a desire. You have a hard-to-reach goal, more likely even a dream, and you really want it to happen and ready for changes for the sake of it. Starting from the state of passive dreaming, you end up in the action figure position.
The second factor is a failure. They will pave your way to success. There will be plenty of them, so you should be ready for it. What is most important, don’t be scared and treat it as a unique experience. It is important to stay persistent and decisive. Remember about the dream goal and do not throw it halfway. Instead of ‘I can’t do it’ say and think ‘how can I do it’.
The third factor is work. A goal without realization is just a fantasy. Break up the big task to the small subtasks and go ahead.
Over the last years, a growth hacking strategy has been becoming more popular in marketing. The long and the short of it is in the intensive project development because of the established process of constant experimentation.
How it is seen from the previous part, growth mindset is a much broader concept than growth hacking. The last one, traditionally, is a marketing methodology-tool, working on the basis of measurable metrics and serves for multiple scaling of the product.
Growth mindset is not a strategy or methodology, but the species of brainwork.
When we implement growth hacking, we rebuild our team into a growth team and experiment constantly. Then, we analyze the results and scale successful experiments.
When we work on the growth mindset, we follow the goal, we improve constantly and learn from failures. We ask ourselves the following questions:
What is worth being added in the processes?
How to motivate a team if another failure occurs?
How to do more with less loss?
How to find out whether we have the right product, does it meet the needs of potential customers?
How to define when to launch your product?
Growth hacking is a part of growth thinking. There, within the framework of the growth mindset, we can work on the growth hacking. However, it is hardly realistic to create a team of people according to this marketing strategy, if they do not adhere to the growth mindset.
It is noteworthy that the startup environment itself stimulates the growth mindset. A startup is a project that changes and grows in virtue of the constant efforts of the team and, of course, each startup is aimed at success.
Growth mindset goes beyond personal growth in the world of startups and really helps a project in achieving its goals. What can growth thinking give to the startup?
High productivity and team efficiency. This is the most trivial thing that comes up to mind, but probably, the most important for the project. Growth thinking considers constant learning and openness to new ideas. When team members receive new knowledge, they will strive to make it into a new experience.
The chance to process the failure into an invaluable experience. Thinking of growth suggests that success is impossible without failure. If you have never lost, most likely you have never tried. Therefore, while trying and experimenting, obviously you fail sometimes. However, each failure teaches you something new and, as a result, the project benefits.
A growth mindset gives you the opportunity to process a startup’s weaknesses in the platform for new opportunities. On the analogy of a quote of Sigmund Freud: “Your strength will come out of vulnerabilities”, the project success may come from its problems.
Growth thinking, in a long perspective, gives the startup team flexibility to adapt to new conditions. Since you are getting used to being constantly out of the comfort zone, you will be able to implement innovations in the project quickly and efficiently — it isn’t going to be stressful for the team.
A happy and motivated team. In 2015, scientists compared the mood of employees in Fortune 1000 companies. The surveys have shown that employees working on growth-oriented projects are happier than their colleagues from traditional fixed-mindset companies.
It is much easier and more effective to implement the growth mindset in startups and small companies. Why?
First of all, it is most likely that each member of your team has a flexible and growth-oriented mindset. Frequently, people come working on small projects because they expect a minimum level of bureaucracy and the opportunity to develop and show themselves. This is an important component of growth thinking.
Secondly, a small startup team can easily agree on a project plan for a long and short term perspective and it is going to be coordinated easily than the big team of a large company.
Thirdly, startuppers are not afraid of failure, they simply make it a part of their experience. Experiments generate errors and successes too, which means that the project will move forward.
What to start the transition to the team growth mindset with? Of course, with building the team. It should not be just a group of people working on a startup along with you. There must be a community of people, sharing and following the common goal. Celebrate triumphs together, learn useful lessons from each failure, develop joint plans for the week, month and quarter and fulfil them.
Each of you has his own role and everyone contributes to success, everyone in the team knows the goal of the project and the chosen way of achieving it. Imagine the success of your project rich in details, ask every colleague to share his/her thoughts on this topic. Draw a picture of the ideal future of your project and go for it, of course, along with the whole team.
After you supercharged the team spirit among employees, you can move to the team growth thinking. Paradoxically, the fact that people who work at the startup have the growth mindset, does not guarantee that the startup itself works on the same principle. There are three steps which can take your team to the growth mindset.
The first step. You ask every colleague to set personal goals in his/her work for the startup and take responsibility for their achievement.
The second step. You allow people to study. They need to see and believe that they are supported in this endeavour.
The third step. Encourage the unconventional thinking and initiative.
Here are some tips from startups that already work on the growth thinking basis.
Praise your team, but do it wisely. Plaudit the effort, a good result, but not a talent. Of course, the latter is very important, but the talent is nothing without work and result. Allow all the team members to share ideas and take initiative. Show what is this special in the idea that can make the project better.
Form a risk-taking culture in the team. In this instance, people will not be afraid that their idea may fail.
Work in discipline. Growth is a discipline in action. Suppose that you and your team are open to the new, focused on the result and not scared of difficulties, but if you don’t have discipline, the result is likely to be invisible.
Hire the right people to the team. Do not search for ‘stars’, search for people ready to shape up and work for the result. Qualification and talent, as it was mentioned above, are very important. But interest and motivation are no less important. A team of growth-minded people with will help a startup to survive a fall time and again and will ultimately lead it to success.
Use the Agile-philosophy in work organization. This is a collective name for agile management techniques. In translation, agile means promptness and dexterity in motion. For a startup, Agile methodology requires quick adaptation to the environment changes, considering the customer’s needs in work rather than initial ideas.
Be persistent. This is the defining characteristic of successful startups. Learn to use all available opportunities and overcome difficulties, remember your project’s ‘ideal picture of success’.
Push your way out of the comfort zone. Don`t be afraid of the unknown, try it. Apply unusual strategies, implement non-standard ideas and sooner or later, some of the tries will bring results.
Learn constantly and encourage your team to learn. The goal is to become a little bit better every day. Everyone in a team should be focused on self-education. There may be anything: free courses, paid seminars, webinars at company’s expenses, the main idea is the income of new pieces of knowledge to the team and, as a result, new ideas on the product and project development.
Growth mindset is the awareness that each of us can develop our abilities throughout our life. Unlike fixed mindset, where the main idea tells that each of us is burnswith a certain intellectual level and there is no way to interfere it, the growth mindset assumes that the person, in fact, has infinite possibilities if he/she has a goal and perseveres it.
In startups, growth thinking involves the teamwork, aimed at continual testing, implementation of the new methodologies and collecting data about successful and unsuccessful attempts. Unlike growth hacking marketing strategy, growth thinking involves active work of the entire team. Everybody is equal, has own goals and leads the project to success.
Implementation of the growth thinking mindset in a startup gives an opportunity to boost the work productivity and effectiveness, employees’ motivation, learn through errors and rethink project weaknesses.
In order to form a growth-minded team, it is important to have a group of people aboard, who are not just working the certain number of hours a week, but also share a common goal and interested in the project’s success. Each team member must understand what exactly depends on him/her, whether the startup will get ahead and do whatever it takes. Startup founders should strongly encourage initiative and experimentation, develop a culture of risk at the project. Employees should not be afraid that their idea may not bring success. If this philosophy is properly adopted in a team, the growth mindset does not only increase the chances that the startup will be finished but also makes the project team members happy with their lives and work.