How to Convince Your CEO Your Organization Needs Growth Mindset


At NLI, we don’t subscribe to the idea that all employees need to think the same in order to stay united. In fact, homogenous teams tend to perform demonstrably worse compared to diverse teams. Instead, we care about changing behaviors—the “shared everyday habits” of an organization that come to form its culture.

If you’re as big of a fan of growth mindset as we are, and you want to persuade your CEO of its benefits, this is where you should begin.

Growth mindset culture

We define growth mindset as the belief that your skills and abilities can be improved, and that ongoing development is the goal of the work you do. (It also happens to be the subject of our latest white paper, “Impact Report: Growth Mindset Supports Organizations Through Disruption,” which features five case studies of major organizations finding tremendous success using growth mindset.)

Therefore, we can think of teams that facilitate a growth mindset as having a “growth mindset culture.” Their everyday habits bring to life the priorities of improving themselves, rather than proving themselves, and seeing mistakes as chances to get better, rather than as signs of incompetence.

This was the case at HP, where over a two-year period employee engagement jumped 22% and a slew of behavior scores improved as a result of infusing growth mindset into its operations. This focus on growth mindset, soon after a major organizational change, “gave everybody permission to be in a constant learning and exploration mode,” recalls Luciana Duarte, HP’s Global Head of Employee Experience.

This is the key takeaway about growth mindset: It completely transforms how people approach their work. It moves people from a place of dwelling on shortcomings to imagining new possibilities. It makes people more open to feedback, and guides them to be more inclusive of people from different backgrounds and experiences. And it creates a culture of development, not a culture of genius.

More data on behavior change

At NLI, we also know folks at the top of the house like to see hard numbers. So rather than focus on metrics like net promoter score, which really only tracks if people liked what they learned, we anchor on a metric called behavior change percentage (BCP). This reflects the actual behavior change taking place: how much growth mindset has led to new outcomes.

In one rollout of GROW: The Neuroscience of Growth Mindset, an American telecom company leveraged growth mindset to prepare for a digital future. The company was transitioning job-site workers into data-analysis and software-driven roles, a task that required not only technical training, but a new orientation toward growth. After just one month of GROW, via NLI’s distributed learning solution, 98% of the 700 participants said they felt prepared to inspire others and thrive through change.

“Because of GROW,” one participant said, “I am more focused on getting the information I am seeking, and not as worried about being judged.”

Closing arguments

Growth mindset isn’t a “nice-to-have.” It’s a business imperative, especially given the accelerating pace of technological change and the automation of work.

If leaders don’t treat habits of mind as catalysts for habits of work, disruptive forces—whatever form they take—could cause individuals to fall behind. Not only that, team members could fail to see the potential in one another, discounting people’s abilities to take on new roles and stifling innovation.

On the other hand, if leaders recognize growth mindset’s power to strengthen people’s ability to weather changes that come their way, and see their abilities and others’ as fluid, they stand a fighting chance at leading the charge.

Author: Chris Weller