It’s a term you hear ever more frequently, the growth mindset. Not only in software development, but in all sorts of sectors, companies are looking for people who’ve mastered this whole “growth mindset.”
Background of the growth mindset
In her book “Mindset,” Carole Dweck introduced the terms “Fixed Mindset” and “Growth Mindset.” Dweck has done extensive research on how people approach challenges and the mindset with which you do so has a huge impact on your ability to cope with and learn from these challenges. The essence of the book is the finding that people with a growth mindset are much more capable of learning new things and developing themselves, as opposed to people with a fixed mindset, who struggle in the areas of learning and self-development. Dweck has an amazing TedTalk on the power of the Growth Mindset, check it out.
Someone with a fixed mindset is convinced that they have some talents or capabilities and that these are...you guess it, fixed. Some people are born with a certain skill or talent and that is what distinguishes them from others who don’t. They are convinced that they do not have control over these talents and that you cannot develop or acquire them over time.
It may sound weird, but it’s very easy to stumble into a fixed mindset, just look at the following examples and see if they ring familiar:
- “I am terrible at maths/sudoku/learning languages/sports/cooking/etc…”
- “No I can’t, I have never done it before.”
These are classic examples of thinking along the lines of a fixed mindset.
Are you really terrible at Sudoku or have you simply never put in enough effort to understand how it works? Do you really suck at sports or do you just prefer to watch a movie instead of playing a sport?
People with a growth mindset know that you are able to develop your skills and talents and that you are the one in charge of this. If someone is outperforming their peers in certain jobs, games, sports, then they have obviously put in the time and effort to master the skills needed to do so. This kind of person will give you a completely different answer when it comes to things they haven’t done yet. Are you good at Sudoku? “I mean I never really tried it, but I am good with numbers, so I think I could become good at it if I put in the effort.”
Becoming is better than being - Carole S. Dweck
Rein, why is embracing the growth mindset so important for developers?
I would say it’s actually important for everyone. However, having a growth mindset is inherent to becoming a good developer. In development, you will face a lot of challenges and you may work for extended periods of time on difficult projects with slow progress. Sometimes, up to 80-90% of the entire work on a project falls in this stage. Then it is important to realize that programming is a process and every day you solve new problems and that all of them are great learning opportunities. You have to embrace this process of facing these challenges head-on, solving them, and learning every step of the way.
Making new products
As a developer, you will often get asked by your product owner or manager to create new products, things you have never done before. There are different ways you can react to such requests. I mean, of course you could just say no. But in the end, they will want you to deliver and if you face the challenge with a growth mindset, you give yourself the opportunity to learn from it. If someone asks you to write a program in Java, in which you’ve never worked, but you did work in C++, you could argue “I haven’t done it before, but I looked into it and it’s similar to what I know, so I will be able to learn it.” It’s about embracing the challenges that you face, being open to learn new things, and getting comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
Is it possible to learn the growth mindset?
YES…But it’s really about how people view themselves. What I noticed working at Codaisseur is that people with a Fixed Mindset identify themselves by the things they can and cannot do. This means that making the switch from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset is something really personal and does not happen overnight. Luckily, we’ve got quite a few weeks in our Coding Academy where I really keep pushing on that mindset. Sometimes during my classes I’ll hear remarks like ‘Oh this is really difficult’ and for me as a teacher, these are excellent opportunities to engage in a discussion about the mindset our students have. Is it really difficult or have we just not put in the time to learn it yet? One of the things we keep telling our students is that they are capable of anything, as long as they put in the time and effort to get there.
This sounds awesome Rein, but how can I foster my own Growth Mindset?
It always begins with you. I mean, right now, think back, when was the last time you did something new or something you knew you were not good at (YET)? It’s about challenging yourself, doing something new, doing something you feel uneasy with. The things you are uncomfortable with, those are the ones that stimulate your growth mindset.
Also, make sure you surround yourself with people that like to learn, grow, and try out new things. This is something I noticed while teaching here at Codaisseur. We have this environment of aspiring coding professionals whom we overload with new knowledge. People in the Academy may struggle with certain topics, but if they see another student overcome the challenge, they start to believe they can do it as well. If you were learning code at home for example, it would be way easier to stop and say “I can’t do it.”
So my second tip for you would be to find that growth environment for yourself, get together with other people who are looking to develop themselves and help each other learn faster.
Are you ready to change your mindset?