Friday, January 13, 2012

Carol Dweck interviewed... and learning to type

Harvard Business Review has released an 18-minute interview with the author of one of our favorite books of 2011, Stanford scholar Carol Dweck. She discusses her favorite subject (and one of ours): fixed and growth mindsets.

The entire interview is great, but one powerful section discusses how to give feedback when things don't go as planned. It's as good a summary of the value of companies learning from mistakes and failure as I've seen. Says Dweck:

The person giving the feedback needs to focus on...how they engaged in the process, maybe as a team, what strategies they tried, how they gauge when and whether those strategies were being successful, whether they were sensitive enough to change strategies when they were starting to get the negative feedback. How they went forward, how they corrected themselves. And why, in the end, it might not have worked and what they might do differently next time.

One CEO I talked to rewards value added. Being able to put knowledge or skills back into the company - even when a project wasn't successful.

[Interviewer] Can you say a little more about that? What do you mean, "putting back into the company"?

[Dweck] What did a team or a person learn from an effort, even when it wasn't successful? Many successful people - Einstein, Thomas Edison - say they've learned more from their failures than often from their successes. So many huge breakthroughs came after a number of huge failures that provided learning experiences. You're not going to reward someone just because they failed, but what did the journey teach them that will help them and others in the company become successful the next time? So as people are engaging in a process, in a project, they are monitoring what worked and what didn't, to feed it back into the company to make it a communal learning experience, the more that is reward-worthy.

Here's a personal growth-mindset story. One winter in my mid-thirties, I went through a slow phase at work. I decided that I should learn to touch-type. After twenty-plus years of two-finger typing (including writing a novel and writing thousands of lines of code), I downloaded a typing tutor and, over a two month period, learned to touch type. It was difficult. I was utterly incompetent. But with practice, I was able to learn it.

This is one of my favorite memories. I thought I might be too old (and too accomplished) to learn much new. Instead, with practice, I went from not being able to do something to having that ability.

You can access the full Carol Dweck interview here.

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