How to Create an Innovative Mindset


Why you need to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset-learning from your failures and changing how you see your abilities.

Climbing a ladder

No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit. Intelligence and success can be developed through effort, and brains and talent are just the starting point.

If you agree with the above statement, congratulations! You have a growth mindset. Researcher Carol Dweck, a leading expert in the field of motivation and a psychology professor at Stanford University, uses two simple statements to begin assessing our mindset. The statement above is related to a growth mindset, while the following statement is related to a fixed mindset:

You can learn new things, but you can’t really change how intelligent you are. Intelligence and talent are things you either have or you don’t, and they indicate how successful you’ll be.

As the statements indicate, people with a growth mindset believe that with hard work, anything is possible. They appreciate challenges and see failure as an opportunity to learn. They believe they’re only limited by the effort they’re willing to make. People with a fixed mindset feel that they’re either good at a given skillset or they’re not; they find failure frustrating and don’t want to be challenged because it’s uncomfortable. They think the outcome is forgone based on our natural abilities and talents.

Maybe you initially leaned toward the fixed mindset but are now trying to tell yourself you can change. Or maybe you agreed with both statements. That’s entirely possible because most of us move between a fixed and a growth mindset. There may be some areas where you see endless possibility, and others where you think no amount of work will matter. Perhaps you are a whiz in the kitchen and feel that you’ll just keep getting better, but don’t think any amount of effort or lessons will turn you into a star singer.

Can you guess which mindset is better for innovation?

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If you guessed growth, you’re right. Growth mindset is essential for innovation because innovation means taking risks and failing, and then learning from the experience and doing it all over again. Thankfully, mindset is something you can train and reset with a few key exercises.

  • Mind your mindset. The first step to changing any behavior is being aware of what you’re trying to change. If you find yourself not wanting to try something new, check yourself to see what’s really going on. You can build a habit of trying new things if you learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable. How do you do that? Well, you have to allow yourself to be uncomfortable sometimes and to realize it’s not so bad.

  • Set small goals. Behavioral psychology says that you have to rebuild the thought patterns in your brain by gaining small wins. For example, if you hate to run, that might mean waking up a little earlier for a few days in preparation for a run. Then taking the next day or two to get dressed to run. And then on the final day, actually putting on your sneakers and taking a walk. Accomplishing these smaller steps helps rewire the self-talk that says I can’t run and builds to the larger goal.

  • Track your progress. Pick an area where you feel fixed and, using steps 1 and 2, start taking note of your accomplishments. When it happens slowly it can become invisible to us, so it’s important to remember to celebrate wins. Once you’ve been able to open your mindset up to one area, try another. Soon it will be second nature and you’ll be spending more time in a growth mindset rather than a fixed.

  • Speak kindly to yourself. Our mindset comes from our own beliefs. That in some ways makes it easier to change, but also harder since we can be our own worst enemies. If you fail at something, talk to yourself the way you would to a friend. What did you learn? What could you change next time? And above all else, remind yourself that it wasn’t catastrophic. Think of each “failure” as a seed that grows your experience, expertise, and ability. Doing that will help you grow something wonderful.

Michelle Histand is director of innovation at Independence Blue Cross.

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