When you come across something challenging, how do you react? Let’s take math as an example. Many people believe their struggles in math are due to “not having a math brain.” Others, however, keep plugging away until they figure it out and logarithms are a piece of cake.
The former types of people have “fixed” mindsets, while the latter types have “growth” mindsets. And it’s this growth mindset that can help you reap benefits in many areas in life – including analytics. Let’s take a look.
What is a growth mindset?
I first became interested in learning more about growth mindsets when teachers at my daughters’ schools started to talk about them. Several years ago, one of my daughters participated in a personalized learning program (or a “flipped classroom”) and her teachers placed a high emphasis on the kids developing certain habits to succeed – one of which was having a growth mindset. Another former teacher would talk to her class about the importance of having a growth mindset as the kids tackled engineering and other STEM challenges.
According to Carol Dweck, the psychologist who coined the term, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”
Not only can individuals have growth mindsets, but organizations can have them too. In a Harvard Business Review article, Dweck says, “When entire companies embrace a growth mindset, their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed; they also receive far greater organizational support for collaboration and innovation. In contrast, people at primarily fixed-mindset companies report more of only one thing: cheating and deception among employees, presumably to gain an advantage in the talent race.”
As I learned more about having a growth mindset, I realized learning how to strengthen and improve one’s frame of mind would not just benefit 12-year-olds who are dealing with the demands of an increased academic load, but it would also benefit business people, including those who work with data all day.
Growth mindsets and analytics
What are some characteristics of a growth mindset and how can having this frame of mind benefit people who work in analytics? Here are three ways.
- Resilience. One of the things that characterizes people with a growth mindset is that they are able to bounce back from adversity more easily. For analytics users, this means that finding “bad news” in your data is not a death knell or something to hide. For example, let’s say your data shows poor sales numbers for this quarter. How will you react? The growth-oriented individual might sulk for a bit, but will then take it as a challenge to figure out ways to improve for next quarter.
- Persistence. Growth learners stick with tasks, even when they become challenging. When it comes to analytics, it can be discouraging at first when you’re not getting the answer you need in the data. But persistence pays off. The growth-oriented individual will keep diving in the data to get to the right answer.
- Intelligence growth. People with growth mindsets don’t believe that one’s talents and abilities are fixed at birth. They believe they can develop over time. Having access to a wealth of new data can be daunting at first. What do you look for? What should you be examining? Do you give up easily or work with the data over time to gain new insights?
How to develop a growth mindset
If you find that you have a fixed mind, there are ways to change your thinking and develop more growth-minded habits.
- Ask your question in a new way. Have a question that you’re not getting the answer to in your data? An individual with a growth mindset won’t turn the computer off, but she will think about what she wants as an end result and work backwards from there to make sure she’s asking the right questions.
- Spend some free time just seeing where the data takes you. I know, I know – who has free time to just sit around and play with the data? Truth is, though, taking some time to explore can help you gain new insights. Start by setting aside a small chunk of time each week to see what new nuggets of information you can unearth.
- Continually make new goals. Your sales team met its goals for the quarter. Or your ER department successfully shaved 10 minutes off its door-to-doc time. Congrats! Now what’s next? By setting a new goal each time you make your old one, you are keeping your mind challenged and open to new ways of thinking.
- Celebrate small wins along the way. Many people with fixed mindsets have them because it’s hard to see the end result. “I can’t understand this simple math concept today – how do you expect me to ace the AP exam?” “Our hospital’s quality rankings are in the bottom 10% – how can we possibly get them to the top 10%?” “Fewer stores stocked our product last quarter – how can you now expect us to increase distribution?” You can change this mindset by celebrating smaller milestones. An improved test score. A small jump in quality rankings. A new distributor relationship. By breaking down your larger goals into smaller wins, you increase momentum and motivation, unlocking insight into how you can reach your bigger goals.
Growth thinking is a process
Of course, shifting your frame of mind is a process, and it’s one that won’t happen overnight. I’ve learned that with my kids, despite teachers continually stressing growth learning ideas. However, you will find that by employing some more growth-minded thinking, you can turbocharge your analytics understanding and success. Interested in learning more? Check out our blog posts Why Diversity Matters in Decision-Making and How Curiosity Can Improve Decision-Making.
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