Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

  • An individual with a growth mindset believes their intelligence and talents can be developed over time. Conversely, an individual with a fixed mindset believes their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be developed. The two mindsets were developed by American psychologist Carol Dweck while studying human motivation.
  • Both mindsets are comprised of conscious and subconscious thought patterns established at a very young age. In adult life, they have profound implications for personal and professional success.
  • Individuals with a growth mindset devote more time and effort to achieving difficult goals and by extension, are less concerned with the opinions or abilities of others. Individuals with a fixed mindset are sensitive to criticism and may be preoccupied with proving their talents to others.

What are a growth mindset and a fixed mindset?

Individuals with a growth mindset believe their intelligence and talents can be developed over time.

They are willing to tackle challenges and have a passion for learning.

Conversely, individuals with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be developed.

They tend to avoid challenges and give up easily.

Understanding growth and fixed mindsets

The idea of growth and fixed mindsets was first introduced by American psychologist Carol Dweck, a leading expert in human motivation. 

Approximately three decades ago, Dweck wanted to know why some children sought out challenges while others avoided failure at all costs. She began studying the traits of each group, describing her work as follows:

My work bridges developmental psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology, and examines the self-conceptions (or mindset) people use to structure the self and guide their behaviour. My research looks at the origins of these mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes.

This work was later synthesized into a 2007 book entitled Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

In the book, the reader is encouraged to consider how their conscious and unconscious thoughts affect what they want and whether they will succeed in attaining it.

Dweck suggested that altering even the simplest of these thoughts or beliefs could profoundly impact nearly every aspect of life.

One of the most fundamental of these beliefs pertains to how the individual views and inhabits what they consider to be their personality.

A fixed mindset assumes our personality is fixed, while a growth mindset considers personality to be fluid, dynamic, and evolving.

These beliefs are developed very early and have significant implications for personal and professional success.

Characteristics of growth and fixed mindsets

The main difference between each mindset is the belief in the permanence of intelligence and one’s own ability. 

A growth mindset considers these factors to be changeable in either direction.

In other words, there is potential for improvement and regression – with the latter used as a means of improvement through learning from mistakes.

A fixed mindset considers there to be little room for neither improvement or regression.

With that said, here are a few qualities that differentiate the two mindsets.

An individual with a growth mindset:

  • Perseveres after experiencing failure or rejection.
  • Finds inspiration in the success of others.
  • Considers criticism a valuable tool for personal development.
  • Has an interest and willingness to learn.
  • Persists in overcoming obstacles.

On the other hand, an individual with a fixed mindset:

  • Wants to prove their intelligence or talent with no desire to improve it. 
  • Avoids challenging circumstances for fear of failure.
  • Treats criticism as a personal attack and in so doing, ignores valuable feedback.
  • Feels threatened by the success of others.
  • Gives up easily in situations requiring hard work, stamina, persistence, or dedication.

Growth Mindset: My Personal Experience

As a digital entrepreneur who has built an online media business, I can share my experience.

When I started blogging a few years back, I had a very low tolerance for failure, as I identified with it.

However, over time, as I experimented more and more, I learned to make failure part of the process.

In other words, today, I have a workflow where I need to experiment, execute and iterate very quickly to stay on top of my game.

This has led me to various mistakes and many failures over the years.

While failing is not pleasing at all. Over time, I learned that this is part of the growth process.

And the most interesting part?

Some of the mistakes I’ve made led me to challenge many of the assumptions I had.

In short, thanks to a fast process of iterations, I often ended up making – what I thought – were mistakes that instead turned into successful – and counter-intuitive – tactics!

That is the most incredible part of the growth process.

As you learn to structure it in a way that you know that failure will happen. As you make many – hopefully minor – mistakes along the way.

A small percentage of these mistakes will turn into incredible and valuable lessons you could have not learned otherwise.

Take, for example, the process of what I like to define as SEO Hacking, which I used years back to grow this blog.

Fixed Mindset: How Did I Overcome it?

Back in the 2010s, as I finished my studies as a lawyer, I undertook my MBA as I wanted to shift path.

At the time, I mainly had a fixed mindset, I was in my early 20s and would take most of the failure as something personal.

It took me years to reshape my thinking.

And this process started when I was in San Diego, California, working as an analyst in 2013, and I started to learn about neuroplasticity.

At the time, I learned that our brain, based on the context and how much we’re motivated to accomplish something, can be re-wired.

Thus, I managed to build a growth mindset that, these days, helps me build processes in whatever business endeavors I get into.

Today I understand that to grow, you need to build playbooks, workflows, and processes and keep developing your way and style of doing things.

For that, look at my idea generation guide.

What are examples of a fixed mindset?

In a fixed mindset, the person believes their intelligence and talents are fixed traits that cannot be developed. Take the case of a person building a digital business, yet, stopping as soon as that person sees that the effort into the business is not turning into growth and as soon as that person encounters a failure. A person with a growth mindset knows that to succeed, they will need a consistent process of growth made of many failures along the way.

What are examples of a growth mindset?

Take the case of a digital entrepreneur building a successful blog, newsletter, or YouTube channel, after five years of continuous experimentation and hundreds of small to more significant failures. The growth mindset person will have incorporated a framework and process which leads to small to more significant failures along the way, which turn into incredible growth over time.

Which is better growth or fixed mindset?

A fixed mindset might seem better in the short term as it helps you avoid failure. However, in the long run, a growth mindset is way better, as it empowers you to become the sort of person you wish and to build valuable things in the world.

Read Next: Business Model Innovation, Business Models.

Connected Leadership Concepts And Frameworks

Leadership Styles

Leadership styles encompass the behavioral qualities of a leader. These qualities are commonly used to direct, motivate, or manage groups of people. Some of the most recognized leadership styles include Autocratic, Democratic, or Laissez-Faire leadership styles.

Agile Leadership

Agile leadership is the embodiment of agile manifesto principles by a manager or management team. Agile leadership impacts two important levels of a business. The structural level defines the roles, responsibilities, and key performance indicators. The behavioral level describes the actions leaders exhibit to others based on agile principles. 

Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is a model used by leaders to help individuals adapt to complex or rapidly changing environments. Adaptive leadership is defined by three core components (precious or expendable, experimentation and smart risks, disciplined assessment). Growth occurs when an organization discards ineffective ways of operating. Then, active leaders implement new initiatives and monitor their impact.

Blue Ocean Leadership

Authors and strategy experts Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne developed the idea of blue ocean leadership. In the same way that Kim and Mauborgne’s blue ocean strategy enables companies to create uncontested market space, blue ocean leadership allows companies to benefit from unrealized employee talent and potential.

Delegative Leadership

Developed by business consultants Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in the 1960s, delegative leadership is a leadership style where authority figures empower subordinates to exercise autonomy. For this reason, it is also called laissez-faire leadership. In some cases, this type of leadership can lead to increases in work quality and decision-making. In a few other cases, this type of leadership needs to be balanced out to prevent a lack of direction and cohesiveness of the team.

Distributed Leadership

Distributed leadership is based on the premise that leadership responsibilities and accountability are shared by those with the relevant skills or expertise so that the shared responsibility and accountability of multiple individuals within a workplace, bulds up as a fluid and emergent property (not controlled or held by one individual). Distributed leadership is based on eight hallmarks, or principles: shared responsibility, shared power, synergy, leadership capacity, organizational learning, equitable and ethical climate, democratic and investigative culture, and macro-community engagement.

Ethical Leadership

Ethical leaders adhere to certain values and beliefs irrespective of whether they are in the home or office. In essence, ethical leaders are motivated and guided by the inherent dignity and rights of other people.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is a style of leadership that motivates, encourages, and inspires employees to contribute to company growth. Leadership expert James McGregor Burns first described the concept of transformational leadership in a 1978 book entitled Leadership. Although Burns’ research was focused on political leaders, the term is also applicable for businesses and organizational psychology.

Leading by Example

Those who lead by example let their actions (and not their words) exemplify acceptable forms of behavior or conduct. In a manager-subordinate context, the intention of leading by example is for employees to emulate this behavior or conduct themselves.

Leader vs. Boss

A leader is someone within an organization who possesses the ability to influence and lead others by example. Leaders inspire, support, and encourage those beneath them and work continuously to achieve objectives. A boss is someone within an organization who gives direct orders to subordinates, tends to be autocratic, and prefers to be in control at all times.

Situational Leadership

Situational leadership is based on situational leadership theory. Developed by authors Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard in the late 1960s, the theory’s fundamental belief is that there is no single leadership style that is best for every situation. Situational leadership is based on the belief that no single leadership style is best. In other words, the best style depends on the situation at hand.

Succession Planning

Succession planning is a process that involves the identification and development of future leaders across all levels within a company. In essence, succession planning is a way for businesses to prepare for the future. The process ensures that when a key employee decides to leave, the company has someone else in the pipeline to fill their position.

Fiedler’s Contingency Model

Fielder’s contingency model argues no style of leadership is superior to the rest evaluated against three measures of situational control, including leader-member relations, task structure, and leader power level. In Fiedler’s contingency model, task-oriented leaders perform best in highly favorable and unfavorable circumstances. Relationship-oriented leaders perform best in situations that are moderately favorable but can improve their position by using superior interpersonal skills.

Management vs. Leadership


Cultural Models

In the context of an organization, cultural models are frameworks that define, shape, and influence corporate culture. Cultural models also provide some structure to a corporate culture that tends to be fluid and vulnerable to change. Once upon a time, most businesses utilized a hierarchical culture where various levels of management oversaw subordinates below them. Today, however, there exists a greater diversity in models as leaders realize the top-down approach is outdated in many industries and that success can be found elsewhere.

Action-Centered Leadership

Action-centered leadership defines leadership in the context of three interlocking areas of responsibility and concern. This framework is used by leaders in the management of teams, groups, and organizations. Developed in the 1960s and first published in 1973, action-centered leadership was revolutionary for its time because it believed leaders could learn the skills they needed to manage others effectively. Adair believed that effective leadership was exemplified by three overlapping circles (responsibilities): achieve the task, build and maintain the team, and develop the individual.

High-Performance Coaching

High-performance coaches work with individuals in personal and professional contexts to enable them to reach their full potential. While these sorts of coaches are commonly associated with sports, it should be noted that the act of coaching is a specific type of behavior that is also useful in business and leadership. 

Forms of Power

When most people are asked to define power, they think about the power a leader possesses as a function of their responsibility for subordinates. Others may think that power comes from the title or position this individual holds. 

Tipping Point Leadership

Tipping Point Leadership is a low-cost means of achieving a strategic shift in an organization by focusing on extremes. Here, the extremes may refer to small groups of people, acts, and activities that exert a disproportionate influence over business performance.

Vroom-Yetton Decision Model

The Vroom-Yetton decision model is a decision-making process based on situational leadership. According to this model, there are five decision-making styles guides group-based decision-making according to the situation at hand and the level of involvement of subordinates: Autocratic Type 1 (AI), Autocratic Type 2 (AII), Consultative Type 1 (CI), Consultative Type 2 (CII), Group-based Type 2 (GII).

Likert’s Management Systems

Likert’s management systems were developed by American social psychologist Rensis Likert. Likert’s management systems are a series of leadership theories based on the study of various organizational dynamics and characteristics. Likert proposed four systems of management, which can also be thought of as leadership styles: Exploitative authoritative, Benevolent authoritative, Consultative, Participative.

Related Innovation Frameworks

Business Engineering


Business Model Innovation

Business model innovation is about increasing the success of an organization with existing products and technologies by crafting a compelling value proposition able to propel a new business model to scale up customers and create a lasting competitive advantage. And it all starts by mastering the key customers.

Innovation Theory

The innovation loop is a methodology/framework derived from the Bell Labs, which produced innovation at scale throughout the 20th century. They learned how to leverage a hybrid innovation management model based on science, invention, engineering, and manufacturing at scale. By leveraging individual genius, creativity, and small/large groups.

Types of Innovation

According to how well defined is the problem and how well defined the domain, we have four main types of innovations: basic research (problem and domain or not well defined); breakthrough innovation (domain is not well defined, the problem is well defined); sustaining innovation (both problem and domain are well defined); and disruptive innovation (domain is well defined, the problem is not well defined).

Continuous Innovation

That is a process that requires a continuous feedback loop to develop a valuable product and build a viable business model. Continuous innovation is a mindset where products and services are designed and delivered to tune them around the customers’ problem and not the technical solution of its founders.

Disruptive Innovation

Disruptive innovation as a term was first described by Clayton M. Christensen, an American academic and business consultant whom The Economist called “the most influential management thinker of his time.” Disruptive innovation describes the process by which a product or service takes hold at the bottom of a market and eventually displaces established competitors, products, firms, or alliances.

Business Competition

In a business world driven by technology and digitalization, competition is much more fluid, as innovation becomes a bottom-up approach that can come from anywhere. Thus, making it much harder to define the boundaries of existing markets. Therefore, a proper business competition analysis looks at customer, technology, distribution, and financial model overlaps. While at the same time looking at future potential intersections among industries that in the short-term seem unrelated.

Technological Modeling

Technological modeling is a discipline to provide the basis for companies to sustain innovation, thus developing incremental products. While also looking at breakthrough innovative products that can pave the way for long-term success. In a sort of Barbell Strategy, technological modeling suggests having a two-sided approach, on the one hand, to keep sustaining continuous innovation as a core part of the business model. On the other hand, it places bets on future developments that have the potential to break through and take a leap forward.

Diffusion of Innovation

Sociologist E.M Rogers developed the Diffusion of Innovation Theory in 1962 with the premise that with enough time, tech products are adopted by wider society as a whole. People adopting those technologies are divided according to their psychologic profiles in five groups: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards.

Frugal Innovation

In the TED talk entitled “creative problem-solving in the face of extreme limits” Navi Radjou defined frugal innovation as “the ability to create more economic and social value using fewer resources. Frugal innovation is not about making do; it’s about making things better.” Indian people call it Jugaad, a Hindi word that means finding inexpensive solutions based on existing scarce resources to solve problems smartly.

Constructive Disruption

A consumer brand company like Procter & Gamble (P&G) defines “Constructive Disruption” as: a willingness to change, adapt, and create new trends and technologies that will shape our industry for the future. According to P&G, it moves around four pillars: lean innovation, brand building, supply chain, and digitalization & data analytics.

Growth Matrix

In the FourWeekMBA growth matrix, you can apply growth for existing customers by tackling the same problems (gain mode). Or by tackling existing problems, for new customers (expand mode). Or by tackling new problems for existing customers (extend mode). Or perhaps by tackling whole new problems for new customers (reinvent mode).

Innovation Funnel

An innovation funnel is a tool or process ensuring only the best ideas are executed. In a metaphorical sense, the funnel screens innovative ideas for viability so that only the best products, processes, or business models are launched to the market. An innovation funnel provides a framework for the screening and testing of innovative ideas for viability.

Idea Generation


Design Thinking

Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, defined design thinking as “a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Therefore, desirability, feasibility, and viability are balanced to solve critical problems.

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