As I mentioned in a previous blog, I’ve been exploring an emerging perspective on “Growth Mindset vs. Closed Mindset”. One of the leaders in this work is the Neuroleadership Institute. Their research indicates that the simple (yet often difficult) work of changing one’s mental model significantly shifts one towards possibilities that were previously unavailable.
For example, I like soup. I like it so much I could likely live on soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day of the week. I have tried – lots of times – to make soup in the past. Every single attempt has fallen short of my ideals. I have, as a result, learned to say to myself, “I can’t make soup.” I’ve even said this to others. So, I’ve stopped trying to make soup and instead rely on others. (My wife makes the best soup I’ve tasted anywhere). This is a closed mindset at work. You can spot a closed mindset when you see or hear language like:
- I can’t
- This always happens to me
- She never gets it right (we can have closed or growth mindsets about other people too)
- This will never work
An open mindset is a simple shift in language – from “I can’t” to “I haven’t yet.” If I were to say to myself, “I haven’t yet figured out the trick to making good soup,” that opens up the possibility that I CAN do it. It simply requires some more learning, guidance or practice.
What does this have to do with governance? I’ve been on boards that used closed mindset language. Are any of these phrases familiar to you?
- “We can’t achieve that outcome in the current legislative framework.”
- “We’ll never have sufficient funds to make the difference we want.”
- “We have too many stakeholders to satisfy – they’ll never support this.”
Instead of framing the conversation with a closed mindset, try instead a different framework. Ask questions about possibilities; about big-picture successes.
- “What would the world be like if we achieved X?”
- “What needs exist that we are uniquely positioned to meet?”
- “If we were to look back at ourselves 10 years from now, what impact would we have had to have made in order to know we’ve been successful?”
- “What would we set out to achieve if we knew we couldn’t fail?”
Starting from an open mindset may be the fuel to take your organization into a world of possibilities which have previously been unavailable to you. As for me, our fridge is filled with vegetables and some beautifully roasted chicken. I think it’s time for soup for dinner. I’m going to give it a try and see what I learn.