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What’s Your Mindset? Growth vs. Fixed and Why It Matters

Nic Lyons

August 22, 2023

As someone who provides educational experiences, you may have heard of the concept of growth vs. fixed mindset. This idea that what you believe about yourself impacts what you can achieve in life is not new. Carol Dweck introduced the concept of growth mindset to the world almost 20 years ago.

Yet knowing is not the same as applying. Even though you model a growth mindset for your students, it’s sometimes difficult to apply it to yourself and your organization. At CourseStorm, we know that growth is a primary goal for many educational organizations. Let’s take a look at how you can apply a growth mindset to help your organization thrive.

What Is a Growth Mindset?

A growth mindset is the belief that you can develop talents and abilities through persistent effort over time. Basically, it says that anyone is capable of improving if they’re willing to work at it.

This is a belief that many educators share. After all, the courses you offer encourage people to work to improve their skills. You don’t assume that a student comes to class already able to do everything you’re going to teach them. What would be the point?

A growth mindset is the belief that anyone is capable of improving if they’re willing to work at it.

Growth mindset stands in contrast to fixed mindset. A fixed mindset is the idea that you are born with a set of abilities or talents and nothing you do can change that. 

Carol Dweck explored these two concepts in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success which is now considered a pop psychology classic. Yet, many people miss one key idea about mindset, and it’s an idea that’s particularly relevant to organizations. 

Dweck says that you may have different mindsets in different situations. For example, you may believe that you are capable of learning anything, but that your level of athleticism is fixed. What does this mean for organizations? It means that even if you have an organization full of educators who believe their students are capable of growth, you may still have a mindset problem when it comes to the organization itself. 

The Value of a Growth Mindset for Educational Organizations

“We can’t expect big classes in our small town.” 

“We can only offer one class at a time because we can’t handle too many registrations at once.” 

Raising prices would mean we’d lose all of our students.” 

All of these are examples of fixed mindset ideas. They assume that the organization’s ability to grow is limited by outside factors. Although context is important, growth-minded organizations don’t assume that a challenge is a barrier. Rather, they look for ways to turn these obstacles into opportunities. 

“The growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome. They’re tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues.” – Carol Dweck

Organizations with a growth mindset set goals for growth. Fear of failure could hold organizations back from even trying, but growth-minded organizations assume that failure will be part of the process. Just as a student needs practice to develop a skill, organizations may need to try multiple strategies to reach their goals. 

What’s Your Mindset? How to Do a Mindset Audit

It’s easy for organizations to fall into a fixed mindset. The burden of responsibility for students and staff members can make leadership more cautious. So can fear of social backlash or a loss of reputation. One fixed mindset person can influence the whole team, especially if that person is in a leadership position.

Avoid the dangers of a fixed mindset by doing an annual Mindset Audit. Gather your leadership together and ask these questions. You can make a copy of our mindset audit form to collect responses.

Mindset Audit Questions for Organizations

An organization with a growth mindset sees failure as part of the process and uses challenges as opportunities to improve. Negative reviews or student complaints are valuable insights that offer guidance toward improvement. These organizations have clear, trackable goals for growth and support their employees to improve. Finally, they use scalable processes and procedures that leave the organization room to develop. 

If you have an open and trusting relationship with instructors and administrative staff, you might ask them variations of these questions as well. 

  • In your experience, how does our organization respond to failure? 
  • Without looking anything up, can you list the organization’s formal goals for growth? 
  • How well do you feel the organization supports your career and personal growth? 
  • What processes and procedures might limit our growth? 

Staff responses can give you insight you might otherwise miss. They help you spot whether your organization is acting on its values. 

How to Apply Growth Principles in Your Organization

If you notice your educational organization isn’t as growth-minded as you would like, that’s okay! You can make changes to shift that shared mindset. 

1. Create an Organizational Plan for Growth

Consider how you plan to grow and set clear goals for the organization. Keep in mind that organizational growth needs to be sustainable. If you want to add more students, you may need better systems or more staff to meet the workload. To grow revenue, you need more registrations, higher prices, or lower overhead. Think about your goals and what it will take to achieve them. Then, share your plan with the whole organization.

2. Keep Failure in Perspective

Nobody hopes for dissatisfied students, unbalanced budgets, or canceled classes. Yet, these things can happen to any organization, particularly when you try something new like a different type of course or a new software system. 

Growth-minded organizations run a post-mortem meeting to figure out what went wrong and learn from it. But they don’t let this learning process feel punitive. The goal is not to avoid failure at all costs, but to learn from it. 

3. Support Individual Growth

No matter how skilled your staff members are, they still have room to grow. Your organization can support that growth through periodic performance reviews, training opportunities, and recognizing effort. If possible, you may even provide tuition assistance or fund professional development and attendance at conferences. 

4. Plan for Negative Feedback

It’s easy to dismiss negative reviews as the work of internet trolls or unreasonable people. But growth-minded organizations take feedback seriously. They read every review and try to understand how they could do better in the future. That doesn’t mean you take reviews personally, but it does mean thinking critically about the issues raised in a review. 

You can also create a process for how staff members should capture and respond to feedback, whether it comes from online review sites or class evaluations

5. Choose Scalable Solutions

Organizations limit their own growth when they cling to high-effort processes. Although it is possible to manage student registrations with a spreadsheet, that process soon becomes unwieldy. It requires time and effort that might be better spent on directly supporting students. 

Scalable processes, procedures, and software solutions give your organization room to grow. Take CourseStorm’s online registration and payment processing software for example. 

With no monthly fees, you can scale your organization to meet demand without worrying about the cost of your registration software. Our built-in marketing tools make it easy to reach any group of students or potential students. Plus, automatic waiting lists and low-enrollment warnings help you fill classes and grow your program. For more details on how CourseStorm helps growth-minded education organizations thrive, contact us or download our State of Informal Learning report today.

Nic Lyons

Nic is skilled in scaling start-up edtech and education organizations to growth-stage success through innovative marketing. A former journalist and copywriter, Nic holds a postgraduate certificate in digital and print publishing from Columbia University School of Journalism's publishing course.

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