Thursday, June 21, 2012

Carol Dweck - fixed mindsetters take outsized risks

Carol Dweck is one of the thinkers that continues to inspire me. Her insights on learning (in her words, between people with fixed mindsets and growth mindsets) sheds light on how some of us refuse to learn from mistakes, and how others absorb the lessons and succeed all the more. [This is a marvelous graphic illustrating the two mindsets.]

Her recent post on, "Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Appetite for Risk," discusses how the trap of the fixed mindset, in which talents are perceived to be innate, not developed, can lead people to overestimate their abilities and desire to show off - a cocktail for risky behavior.

The piece also had a quote that got my mind working:

In another study with David Nussbaum, students at a top university were told they had done poorly on a test of their abilities, and were then offered the chance to see and learn from the strategies used by people who had taken the test before them. What did they do? Those with a growth mindset chose to look at the strategies of people who had done far better than they had — they wanted to improve. But those with a fixed mindset chose to look at the strategies of people who had done worse than they had. Why? They wanted to feel superior. And after doing so, they reported that they, indeed, now had a high opinion of their abilities. People with a fixed mindset ignore the warning signs.

This reminded me of a story from a time when I certainly had a very fixed mindset - in college.

As a senior, I had reserved one of my two pass-fail classes for my final semester. I chose Drawing I. It seemed like a change of pace from my engineering curriculum, and a friend was taking it too. Why not? I thought.

I was convinced that I sucked at drawing. And my first drawings lived down to that self-image. So I developed a strategy. (Which wasn't to try hard to improve my craft.) Each time we had completed a drawing or sketch, we hung it on the wall and the professor would critique them. I learned very quickly to hang back while everyone posted their drawings. Then I would find the poorest drawing of all, and hang mine next to it.

This strategy had the desired effect: the teacher's critiques were more muted than they would have been if my drawing had been in the company of better ones.

I didn't improve much over the course of the semester - though I did pass. And years later, I regretted not taking more advantage of that opportunity to practice and learn to draw better. But, of course, that was when I had seen the advantage of the growth mindset.

[If you want to see my drawing skills in action, here you are:]

No comments:

Post a Comment