Innovation is a mindset
Carol Dweck shares an important insight from her research in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. People with a fixed mindset – those who believe that abilities are fixed – are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset – those who believe that abilities can be developed.
A student making a presentation in class may find feedback harrowing. After all, he did his best, and still the results were found to be insufficient. This is a fixed mindset – “I did my best and it wasn’t good enough.” A growth mindset would be to think, “I did my best, learned some things, and I can improve.”
Innovation is all about seeking feedback on efforts with uncertain outcomes. It is not simply a skill or understanding. We can be told that errors are expected, but if negative feedback is like a dagger through the heart, we may play it far too safe. This limits us and the organizations we contribute to.
Innovation is a mindset – a belief that the work we produce – indeed, we ourselves – will always be in beta and can improve.
Look where you want to go
Carol Dweck is telling us that we can accomplish more if we embrace a growth mindset.
Unfortunately, when it comes to extrapolating that to our own abilities, it is easy to be skeptical. Even with all the evidence Dweck provides, we think, surely this is a general rule and doesn’t apply to every person earth!
Belief that you have the ability to navigate challenges doesn’t come from what you are told – it comes from what you experience. The secret is to attempt low risk tasks and work your way up.
Be mindful of your reaction when you receive negative feedback. Can you force yourself to use that feedback to improve your work, instead of reeling at the possibility that your flaws have been discovered?
“The key to high performance driving is to look where you want to go. This is especially true of skid control or obstacle avoidance. Don’t look at the obstacle or you will certainly drive right into it.”
Bob Bondurant on Police and Pursuit Driving by Bob Bondurant
High performance driving is learned first by being told and then experiencing, with the difficulty gradually increased.
Skidding vs stability
Consider a family car being driven to the cottage. The driver chooses a line through the turns and confidently applies the right angle to the steering wheel to hold that line. Progress is slow and steady.
Contrast this with a rally driver. The car is deliberately made to skid through the turn. The driver is making fast, large corrections with the wheel with accompanying stabs at the brake and gas pedals. The turn is made in the blink of an eye.
A highly innovative organization or individual resembles the rally driver, making constant adjustments based on conditions in the moment, not a predetermined course.
It’s okay to skid – just don’t look at the obstacle!