Jed Hassid – Strategic Business Planning Lecturer on the 20Twenty Leadership Programme.
As the UK emerges from the restrictions associated with the pandemic, it is clear that some sectors of the economy have been severely affected whereas others have seen little if any reduction in their economic fortunes.
Some might say that this is just the luck of the draw. Whilst luck might have some part to play in achieving business sustainability and growth, there are steps that can be taken to improve the chances of achieving business goals.
One of the most important steps is to act upon the realisation that we all have a choice about how we react to an event, whether this is related to our personal or business lives.
That is to say when something happens (an event), we have a choice about how to respond. If that response is in the negative, then the outcome of the event will, most likely, be negative.
Event + Response = Outcome
Conversely, if our response to the event is to take a positive view then the chances of achieving a positive outcome are greatly increased.
Consequently, the mind has a crucial role to play in what outcome occurs as a result of an event taking place.
The choices that we have are either to blame the event, for example the weather or bad management for a particular outcome, OR change the response to the event until achieving a positive outcome.
It is helpful to develop the habit of using the following process before reacting to a specific event:
- Consider the event from a neutral position
- Determine the positive elements or potential
- Take action based around the positives/potential
- Remember to take time to learn from the negative aspects of the event
The Art Of Possibility
This attitude of mind is well illustrated by Ben Zander in his book “The Art of Possibility”.
In this book, Zander describes a situation where two salesman are asked by their employer, a shoe manufacturer, to go to Africa to search for new sales opportunities. The first salesman arrives and after a few days, sends the following telegram to his employer:
SITUATION HOPELESS NO ONE WEARS SHOES
The second salesman however takes a different view of the same situation and sends the following telegram:
GLORIOUS BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY THEY HAVE NO SHOES
Same EVENT + different RESPONSE = different OUTCOME.
So how does that help a business emerge from the impact of the pandemic?
Apart from encouraging people to have a positive attitude, businesses can take a number of steps to create a culture where people play to win rather than play not to lose.
A starting point for the business should be to have a clear view about what the business is looking to achieve, over a three year period.
Does the business aspire to expand into new markets and develop new products in response to opportunities identified from the market?
Or is the business merely looking to recreate the business that existed before the pandemic?
If the vision created is an aspiration towards an exiting and challenging future, then the culture and the people creating that culture is likely to be that oriented towards growth.
This focus on either a fixed or growth centred mindset was first identified as being central to both personal and business success by Carole Dweck.
Carole has written extensively on the subject and has also delivered a number of talks. For example: This TED Talk ‘The power of thinking you can improve’
The point is, to help create and develop a growth mindset approach, a business may well want to encourage existing members of staff to develop the way that they react to events, using a growth oriented mindset.
In addition, if the business is looking to hire new members of staff, it might consider using part of the recruitment process to determine a candidate’s attitudes in general and their position on the fixed to growth mindset continuum in particular.
The process of creating a growth oriented culture can, depending on from where a business is starting, take a relatively long time, i.e. months and years.
However, there are specific steps that can be taken immediately that will help a business embark on such a journey:
- Focus on how colleagues engage with the business and each other to understand whether a problem of growth vs fixed thinking exists
- Determine a baseline for such engagement, for example by using the Gallup Q12 engagement survey.
- Help managers to be considered as “coaches” of their teams rather than “bosses”, with a significant part of their role being to help colleagues achieve their potential
Does A ‘Growth Mindset’ Work?
Does this approach of encouraging a growth mindset really work? It is worth noting the following question:
Out of the three CEOs that Microsoft has had (Gates, Ballmer and Nadella), which one has overseen the generation of most shareholder value?
The answer is Nadella.
What has this got to do with mindset? Consider the following quote that was made when Nadella was interviewed by Matthew Syed:
“When I became CEO of Microsoft, my number one objective was to change the culture from a fixed mindset of ‘know it alls‘ to a growth mindset of ‘learn it alls‘”
The idea of a “know it all” is one where an individual considers themselves to know all there is to know about a technology, market or customer.
Contrast that with a “learn it all” growth mindset. Here an individual is always looking to learn new things and acknowledges that they might not know everything.
What has been the result? Look at the following graph of the share price of Microsoft and you decide.
Figure 1 Microsoft share price 1987 – 2021
The 20Twenty Programme looks in depth at different ways to adopt a ‘Growth Mindset’ through challenging our believes in a series of workshops. It also looks at how this can be applied with employees at an organisational level.
Jed Hassid is a Strategic Business Planning lecturer on the 20Twenty Programme and a Director of Purple Performance Ltd which works with owners/senior business leaders to drive business performance.