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The Growth Mind-Set

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The Growth Mind-set
This is one of the most important topics discussed in Little Bets. Chapter 2 of the book is about contrasting two types of mind-sets; the growth mind set vs. the fixed mind-set. As mentioned throughout the book, experimental innovators are not rigid in pursuit of their first ideas and preserve through many failures and move on quickly. In approaching their challenging goals, they accept the fact that they will face many unpredictable obstacles, risks and even breakdowns which they have to cope with and overcome without considerable emotional impacts. These characteristics of experimental innovators are results of having a growth mind-set. People with this mind-set are always willing to grow hence more open to accept new challenges and risks. They do not seek validation of others after every performance, and do not believe that their failures reflect their capabilities and do not get disappointed by them. As a result, they do not stop trying new things until they gain major accomplishments.
On the other hand, people with fixed mind-sets avoid taking new challenges because they are afraid of the possible failures. Any negative comment, failure, or bad performance tends to destroy their self-image; consequently, their main concern becomes seeking validation of others by trying to look smart and successful. They place so much emphasis on minimizing risks and errors that they keep doing things they are already good at instead of trying new things. As a result, they plateau early and achieve less than their full potential. We are programmed at an early age to think that failure is bad. That belief puts off organizations from effectively learning from their missteps. (Amy C. Edmondson, 2011).
While everyone has more or less of both mind-sets, it is argued that with effort and practice, a growth mind-set can be developed even if a person is raised to have a fixed mind-set. “By focusing on doing, rather than planning, learning about the risks and pitfalls of ideas rather than trying to predict them with precision up-front, an experimental approach develops growth mind-set muscles” (2011, p. 49).
In terms of evaluating the effects of this mind-set on organizational behaviours, one of the best examples is Pixar where having a growth mind-set is an essential part of the organizational culture and management. Pixar’s managers demonstrate constant desire to challenge and learn and everyone else in the company follows this trait. Pixar has a culture that compels employees to fear sense of complacency and be open to negative feedbacks. In fact, criticism of work is always appreciated by the managers since they find it vital for constant improvement of the company. Since there is no penalty for criticism or bad ideas, people are more likely to say what they think and there is more room for creativity and inspiration. Only leaders can create and enforce a learning culture in an organization that counteracts the blame game and makes people feel comfortable with and responsible for learning from failures.
In spreading innovative culture in an organization, we should not underestimate the crucial role of the leader. Without great innovation leaders, there is no innovation (Roland Bel, 2010). According to Bel, Innovation leaders have some common traits and abilities, many of which are referred by Peter Sims as well. “By nature, innovation involves risks and uncertainty. A good innovation leader is not so much the one who knows the key success factors but the one who handles risks successfully. And guiding an organization for innovation implies accepting this uncertainty but also learning from failures” (2010, p. 48); in other words, innovation leader has a growth mind-set. The willingness to proactively search for external technologies and ideas, and “The courage to stop projects, not just to start them” are other characteristics of innovation leaders described by Bel in his article which are in conformance with Little Bets.
Providing these types of real examples in the context is what makes the concepts in Little Bets very comprehensible and convincing. In order to make the reader fully grasp the idea of growth mind-set, the author goes as far as describing some stories from Pixar with details including quotes and historical data. Also, a psychological study is mentioned which demonstrates how people can be guided to have a growth or fixed mind-set. What makes this book excellent is that the reader is never left alone without evidence after a fact or theory has been introduced. There are lots of convincing case examples and studies in every chapter which directly support the idea of breakthrough by little bets (i.e. numerous small discoveries).
Although the ideas in Little Bets are verified by many articles related to innovation in organizations, one can find papers which do not fully agree with every claim made by Peter Sims. For example, Edmondson disagrees with the fact that all companies need to fail fast and often, in order to succeed sooner. He believes this hardly promotes success in a manufacturing plant (2011, p. 52). Also, Little Bets encourages executives and entrepreneurs to constantly try new things, but this may not always be a priority especially in economical meltdowns. Even the most innovative companies have chosen to lower their focus in R & D (Research and Development) and innovation spending during the past few years. Money spent on R & D is associated with risk, unpredictable outcomes, and failures, and companies cannot afford failures during difficult times (Reena Jana, 2009).

1) Edmondson, Amy C. (April, 2011). Understanding Failure: Strategies For Learning From Failure. Harvard Business Review. 49-55.

2) Roland, Bel. (January, February 2010) Leadership and Innovation:
Learning from the Best.Global Business and Organizational Excellence. P. 47-60.

3) Jana, Reena. (April, 2009). The 25 Most Innovative Companies. BusinessWeek. P.46-48.

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