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How to apply a Growth Mindset in a company

The mindset we adopt for ourselves affects the way we lead our lives. That is what Stanford Psychology Professor Carol Dweck has proven through research since the 1970s. What she discovered is the power of two different mindsets — she called them the growth mindset and the fixed mindset. Interestingly, they can be transferred from individuals to organizations.

In this blog post, we will show you 3 specific guidelines that we use to apply the growth mindset throughout our company. We will start with a brief explanation of the two mindsets before diving deeper into the guidelines and their implementation.

Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

The difference between the two mindsets is simple: people with fixed mindsets believe that their abilities are set in stone whereas people with growth mindsets believe that their abilities can be advanced. Consequently, fixed mindsetters feel an urgency to prove their abilities over and over whereas growth mindsetters feel that they can change and grow through application and experience. It basically is a battle between “How will I be judged?” (fixed) and “How can I improve?” (growth).

Different mindsets lead to different views on life. For example, when it comes to effort, fixed mindsetters consider it as being useless. Their abilities are fixed, why should they put effort in something they cannot do naturally? On the contrary, growth mindsetters rather see effort as a way to true mastery. They believe that people can grow into whatever they want to.

Is it better to have a Growth Mindset?

By now, you might be wondering which mindset is “better” or “desirable”. Well, in general the growth mindset appears to have a lot of advantages over the fixed mindset. Many aspects of our lives, e.g. challenges, criticism or success, seem to be easier to handle with a growth mindset. But just have a closer look for yourself in the graphic below.

Comparison of Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset
Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

However, it is important to note that none of us is led by one of the mindsets only. We all are mixes of the two, depending on the situation we are in, the people we interact with or the challenges we are about to confront. We need to keep that in mind, especially in an organizational setting. Now let us explore our 3 growth mindset guidelines and how we act on them.

“See, acknowledge and share failures as well as successes”

First, we use two of the most important words in a company to foster a growth mindset: failures and successes. In our opinion, it is crucial to acknowledge and share both of them.

A rather usual way to implement this is a vivid feedback culture. To put such a culture in practice, every Motee has a certain sparring partner. No matter if it is about project-based or strategic work, everyone knows where to get feedback. We also do feedback training with our new Motees and all of us can seek cross-functional feedback at any time.

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In the feedback sessions themselves, we focus on effort, not on natural abilities. Praising natural abilities simply makes people think that abilities are more important than effort. As said in the beginning, people then tend to feel like they will just have to prove their abilities over and over. So any obstacle that they can’t overcome with their natural abilities will make them feel like they are not good enough — definitely not a desirable feedback outcome.

That’s why we focus on effort. In easy words: instead of saying something like “wow, you’re so smart at programming”, we say “wow, you must have worked really hard at this programming challenge despite all the setbacks.” Do you notice the difference? We praise effort, hard work and willingness to learn from mistakes. Consequently, our Motees feel valued for their hard work and their dedication to growth. This gives them a completely different feeling about their work.

However, all of this does not mean that effort is more important than outcome. So while praising efforts, it is important to emphasize those efforts that actually yielded learnings and progress. Usually, these are searching for help from others, looking for new strategies or improving by learning from mistakes. Putting in a lot of effort but being unproductive is not good for anyone.

Additional to feedback sessions, we use different internal events to talk about our failures and successes. One of these is our “Insights Night”. Once a month, one of our Motees talks in-depth about a completed Motius project. In these talks, we focus specifically on all project-related challenges, ranging from technical to organizational and human challenges. With that, we want to share obstacles that can occur and strategies we used to overcome them.

No matter if the strategy worked out or not, the internal learnings are incredibly valuable. Because by acknowledging and sharing both failures and successes, we expand our knowledge and foster growth.

“A zest for teaching and learning, an openness to giving and receiving feedback and an ability to confront and surmount obstacles.” — Carol Dweck

“Challenge ourselves to stretch our abilities”

At Motius, we constantly challenge ourselves, each other and others to stretch our and their abilities. This is a necessity to foster the growth mindset. Not stretching abilities means stagnation — the opposite of innovation and growth. So how do we apply this?

First of all, it’s ELU — we will talk about that in a minute. But very importantly, our fluid company structure itself promotes and demands continuous development. In order to stay close to new technologies, we need techies with expertise in the newest technologies and an eagerness to keep learning. We trust in these traits, we trust that Motees will learn and grow with their tasks. That is why every Motee, no matter if working student or experienced professional, is capable of working with the most important companies on the most important projects. Also, it’s exactly this mindset that leads to innovations in the first place because you can’t innovate without growing. Otherwise, you would develop standard stuff and honestly — we’re an R&D company, we don’t develop standard stuff.

Motius Meeting

Further, we challenge Motees to deal with topics that they might not be an expert in. For example, this happens through our OKR squads. Every department has certain OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) which they want to tackle throughout the year. These strategic tasks make sure that we grow and develop on a company-wide level.

Around these OKRs, we build squads. Thing is that the squad members don’t have to be a part of the affected department. So a techie can work on marketing strategies or a salesperson can work on HR goals. Obviously, chances are high that techies don’t know much about marketing (no offense). So OKR squads are great opportunities for our Motees to get their heads around different topics and challenge themselves. Nevertheless, we always make sure that we have a so-called dedicated squad lead who is close to the squad’s actual topic. In the end, everyone can need some expert advice, right?

Besides the personal benefits and challenges, OKR squads are a great way to enhance teambuilding, cross-department interaction and communication in general. Further, subject-inexperienced Motees often deliver valuable input from new perspectives. Again, all of this helps to foster the growth mindset among us.

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you?” — Carol Dweck

“Encourage each other to learn new things”

Have you heard about ELU? ELU (a German acronym for explore, learn, implement) is how we innovate, stay close to the newest technologies and foster self-development. But it doesn’t just allow individual self-development, it also facilitates a shared growth mindset.

During ELU, we provide time, space and resources to focus on our own internal projects — apart from customer projects and operative tasks. Similar to OKR squads, we build interdisciplinary teams. But here we encourage our Motees to learn something completely new. We want to play around and gather expertise with the newest technologies. So no matter what our actual fields of expertise are, we all have to acquire skills from scratch.

By now, ELU has evolved to Motius Discovery. Same idea, slightly different approach.

Our “InfoTalks”, another series of internal events, provide even more opportunities to learn something new. In these talks, Motees are invited to talk about their areas of expertise. So, for example, one of our Mechanical Engineers introduces Motees to Rapid Prototyping, dives deeper into Motius use cases and answers all the questions that arise on the topic.

At first sight, this might not sound very special but its effects are very valuable. InfoTalks are popular among Motees to learn more about all areas that we work in. It is a useful tool to get new input and insights. Because often the things we talk about are applicable to other projects and areas as well.

However, InfoTalks challenge the presenting Motees too. They want to deliver an insightful and valuable presentation, so in the process, they might have to learn more about how to structure presentations or how to present properly. In retrospect, InfoTalks encourage and trigger all Motees to learn new things.

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Last but not least, we briefly want to talk about the Motius Talent Journey. At Motius we have outlined a path that a Motee can go. Basically, it represents a five-year journey for every new Motee. It shows how Motees can improve, which role they can grow into and what their future opportunities at Motius could look like. By giving our Motees this journey, they have concrete outlooks that encourage them to learn, grow and develop their skills. On top of that, we ensure to include and align individual personal development goals into everyone’s journey. That’s how Motees grow through Motius and Motius grows through Motees. We’re currently rolling out a new version, stay tuned ;).

“Not only weren’t they discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning.” — Carol Dweck

A shared growth mindset to level up your company

We firmly believe that it is important to not just state a growth mindset as a company value — you actually have to do something about it. Using the three guidelines that we outlined, we foster a shared growth mindset at Motius through our every-day tasks and special internal events like Insights Nights, ELU and InfoTalks.

As we pointed out in this blog post, all of this helps us to develop a shared growth mindset, thereby fostering innovation, growth and improvement. It is not without reason that we’re among Europe’s fastest-growing companies.

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