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Growth Mindset

Growth Mindset

“Our minds are made to constantly grow and try something more,” says Mr. Spencer Heng, a human resource professional with more than 20 years of experience in human capital management and development.

Walk into his office and you will notice Spencer’s paintings and sketches neatly displayed by his windows - a new hobby he picked up just about three years ago, reflecting how he personally embraces the Growth Mindset.

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What is a Growth Mindset?

“Before we discuss what Growth Mindset is, we must first understand what mindset means. It’s how we perceive the world and our attitude towards it,” explained Spencer, Director of Human Resource at the Civil Service College. “How we think is how we feel, and how we feel determines how we act.”

First coined by Dr. Carol Dweck, a renowned psychologist, a Growth Mindset refers to the belief that a person’s talents, intelligence and abilities can and will grow through practice, effort and dedication.  Conversely, people with Fixed Mindset believe their talents and abilities are fixed and cannot be developed.

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Growth Mindset – an Innate Trait

“If we were born with fixed abilities, we wouldn’t be able to learn how to sit, crawl and walk as babies and toddlers,” shared Spencer. “A Growth Mindset is a natural part of every person. That’s why a child has the instinctive desire to learn, experiment, and try new things. Children are always curious on what else they can do. ”

“But as time passes, unfortunately people become conditioned by criticisms, comparisons, self-doubts and setbacks that make them believe they have reached their limits and that things are pre-destined. This is when a Fixed Mindset starts to set in.”


Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset

“A person with a Growth Mindset is not just concerned about the outcome itself. What truly matters to them is the process of creating, experimenting and doing their best.

“To them, success is not a destination but a journey. They see failures as a stepping stone, a process to success. They perpetually look for opportunities to improve and move forward.”

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Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindset

“Staff must not have a constant fear of what will happen to their career if they experiment and fail”
To adopt a growth mindset, Spencer points out that the first step is to recognise that growth mindset is innate in all of us. Neuroscience has proven that the mind can and will continue to learn and grow if we allow it. People with growth mindset want to be sure they are constantly doing better work and lead a better life.

Drawing an analogy, “If we simply focus on rewarding a successful outcome, the person carrying out the task will naturally be inclined to replicate the success, and will likely prefer to play safe and operate at the minimum to ensure success. If we wish to encourage a growth mindset, we should recognize and reward the efforts in relation to the outcome, with emphasis on learning and progress so that the person will be motivated to take on new and higher challenges.” 

Secondly, Spencer believes that organisations need to put in place a system of management support, rewards and recognition that give staff the space and time to experiment.

“Staff must not have a constant fear of what will happen to their career if they experiment and fail,” he explains. “Therefore, it is important for organisations to ensure they recognize staff efforts; and if having tried their best the staff still fails, to recognise these failures along with successes, so everyone understands failures are part of the process of learning and experimenting.”

Most importantly, Spencer observes that everyone can decide for themselves how and what to think, regardless of external circumstances.  People around you can only help, whether through positive or negative reinforcement, but the decision to not let fear hinder your progress is the individual’s alone.” 

“Singapore is what it is today because of the growth mindset of our pioneer generation of leaders and forefathers. Like them, we need to remind ourselves and each other to dream big and act fast, then we can see progress in ourselves, in our organisations and in society at large.”