How to develop a Growth Mindset Culture

We’re all creatures of habit. Many of us do our job, do it well, and we do it within a company that is either growing, shrinking, staying at roughly the same level, or going through periods of good and bad years.  

Most companies that grow do so without a Growth Mindset Culture as they are well managed with good processes and dedicated people. However, often the true potential of these companies will never be released because the switch to a Growth Mindset Culture would be so traumatic that there would be significant costs to implement and the disruption involved would not be worth the risk. 

For example, why take the risk of delivering 30-40% year-on-year growth when you’re already forecasting 10-15% year-on-year growth and the shareholders are happy. Many Corporates fit into this category and either create spin-offs for fast growth or need a significant crisis such as COVID-19 to trigger a transformation. But, even then, transformation is merely a rebalancing and cost reduction exercise to navigate the difficult times. 

I would argue that all companies that are looking to grow quickly, without a significant injection of investment, need to incorporate a Growth Mindset Culture and, without it, sustained levels of high growth rates is near impossible.

What is a Growth Mindset Culture?

A Growth Mindset Culture exists in a company where the management and a group of employees are aligned around a willingness to take themselves out of their comfort zone and become committed to a growth agenda, looking for every opportunity to create value across the whole organisation.  That willingness must be balanced with confidence and humility, in equal measure, where making mistakes is expected but aligned to accountability and continuous improvement. 

There are five main elements to achieving a Growth Mindset Culture.

1. Question everything you do

If you can find a good answer to that question and it’s logical and makes sense, then keep it. If you can’t find the answer or it no longer makes sense, then change it to something that serves your purpose. Make sure you don’t change anything without considering all stakeholders and understanding the implications although don’t let the unknown scare you – make a decision and be confident. What’s the worst that can happen? You trial a change and if it doesn’t work you change it back. Fail fast and learn. This is not a process but a mindset. 

2. Everything can always be improved

The status quo should always be treated with suspicion and complacency is your enemy. I’m not suggesting chaos by dramatically changing everything at the same time– that will never work (although some things will need dramatic changes to make a difference). As a matter of routine if, each day, everyone in the organisation makes something better, somehow, even by just a small margin then the multiplication effect across the whole organisation over time will be incredible. However, the key here is people.  This cannot work if employees are happy to come to work and just do their job and not be willing to change anything around them. Feedback will help – this needs to be 360-degree cross-departmental feedback across the whole organisation so everyone is looking out for each other but everyone needs to be receptive to honest and critical feedback and see it as an opportunity to learn and improve. This will be hard for many people but, again, this is a mindset and not a process.

3. Hire for Growth Mindset Culture in key positions

You will need people with a growth mindset in certain roles (as appropriate to your organisation) that will help you on that journey. Hiring to implement a Growth Mindset Culture is a completely separate challenge and it’s not easy – it’s amazing how many people think they have a growth mindset but actually fall way short. It’s not just being flexible or doing a great job, it’s a completely different mindset and frankly needs hustle with a generous dose of ambition.

4. Over-communicate, observe and act

A Growth Mindset Culture will need messages communicated over and over again in many different forums and by different people at every level. You will need champions throughout the business else the “organisational white bloodcells” will reject the cultural change. Ambivalence and reluctance are normal responses to a change in culture but, over time, in order to be successful you will need more and more supporters and less in the impartial category. Where you see the right behaviours then acknowledge, reward, and communicate the benefits of that behaviour. If there are any blockers to change then these need to be removed. Stay patient and don’t give up and things will change over time, but it’s not an overnight success.

5. Create micro achievement goals along the way

Anyone who has a growth mindset often has ambition and a determination to achieve their goals. If that’s the case, then the more goals along that journey the better so outputs are achieved and everyone can move onto the next challenge. Who doesn’t like celebrating an achievement to justify hard work so set yourself up for a journey of success with achievable micro-goals and key milestones.

So is a Growth Mindset Culture right for your organisation?

Achieving a Growth Mindset Culture is difficult. At senior levels within an organisation you need to have that mindset and there aren’t that many executives that have the right mentality yet many will claim otherwise. You simply have to be ruthless and have the right people in place who are capable of delivering growth. With ambitious growth targets yet without a Growth Mindset Culture, you will have well-meaning and fantastic employees who will struggle with what’s needed from them and that’s hard for the individual to cope with and difficult for the organisation to work around. If you get the mix right you’ll be on a fantastic upwards journey, albeit with plenty of hurdles along the way. 

written by Nabil, CEO