Is a Growth Mindset always better than a Fixed Mindset in Crisis Management ?

Author: Manu Steens

A very good friend of mine recently took a course on growth mindset and fixed mindset in preschoolers. It turns out that gifted preschoolers are more likely to simply jump over the problems than normally gifted preschoolers, who struggle with the same problems. You would say “good!” but is it? As a result, they do not fall into the pit of the problem and do not learn to climb out of it. As a result, they only take on problems that they can jump over without any problems. They don’t take on challenges. And that can cause for a fixed mindset later in life. People now see this and are trying to change this mindset of these toddlers into a growth mindset.

For me as a crisis manager, that actually first raises the question: “What is a growth mindset and what is a fixed mindset?” and since crisis management has a lot to do with struggling with problems and climbing out of potholes: “What’s important about it for my organization? Where can I place who?”

The phenomenon of “Growth Mindset ” versus “ Fixed Mindset” therefore seems important .

A good explanation of the difference between the two can be found at https://changedepartment.nl/wat-zijn-de-fixed-mindset-en-de-growth-mindset/

(It is in Dutch, but you can use an on-line translator device, right?)

The author of that article, Lodewijk Gimberg , gives the following explanation:

What is a fixed mindset?

“The people who stand behind the fixed mindset, or who walk around with it, are convinced that capacities, for example the talent to be able to analyze well, are fixed. If you are successful at something, you have a talent for it. It is therefore better to avoid things that you can do less well. This way there are no errors and you will not receive negative feedback about these matters. When people have a fixed mindset, they generally give up more quickly and put less or no effort into learning new things.

People with a fixed mindset often also believe that there is virtually no development possible about yourself, your qualities and skills. The persons with a fixed mindset are convinced that their behavior is immutable. A fixed mindset therefore hinders growth and development because ‘we do things the way we always did them’.”

What is a growth mindset?

“That is exactly the case with growth mindset. There is opportunity for development. You are open to improving your qualities, personality and work to be performed. People or persons who have a growth mindset will not give up easily and resign themselves to the fact that the things they want to achieve will have to go step by step. Learning from the situation and how best to approach it is part of the process of a growth mindset. The growth mindset is therefore an important catalyst behind performance improvements and changes.”

These differences, he writes, are vital in an organization. He therefore argues in favor of converting a fixed mindset into a growth mindset.

If I interpret what it says here succinctly, people with a fixed mindset are not suitable for acquiring a competence outside of their talents. But I think there are also opportunities within talents. There is even a booklet about: “I choose for my talent” by Luk Dewulf .

Are fixed mindsetters therefore lost to society? I do not think so. After all, working within your talents is much more fun than outside. Working within talents gives more energy than it costs. Beyond that, it mainly costs energy. That’s why I think it’s careless to define fixed mindsetters in that way. There should be a definition that applies gray zones. And what is missing on the websites I refer to are examples.

In my opinion, interest is an important factor in this. I am trying to give an example of a fixed mindset . Mea culpa if I hit the ball wrong.

People who systematically learn a lot are ICT specialists . Every now and then a new type of system comes out, be it servers or operating systems, and ICT security is already completely driven to the top: the rogue world does not stand still. The security of an organization must therefore always adapt to a changing world.

This brings us to crisis management: this is a strategic world par excellence that must arm itself against new forms and types of threats.

Let’s move on to more tactical stuff.

Fixed mindsetters believe they should stick to their talent ? A talent can be that you enjoy juggling with servers and operating systems. That you enjoy analyzing the customer’s situation and parameterizing those servers and operating systems with ease, so that you install the ideal working environment for your internal customers, namely the business. You are a “miracle kid”. And then you put everything in clear procedures of how you did it, with the necessary screen prints. A child can then do the job the next time. While you indulge in exploring new business needs. Because that falls within your talents.

With your procedures you have been an enormous help to the BC manager, who plans a large part of his ICT continuity, together with the ICT security manager .

On a certain day, the testing of the ICT continuity plans will be discussed. The procedures of the fixed mindsetter work smoothly. That’s how it should be. And he does it with pleasure. After all, it is his “dada”. It is something which is good to do for him. Analyzing and applying. And keep applying.

Then a crisis happens. A nearby river bursts its banks and overflows the server park of the organization. The water is high. An ICT world is thus confronted with a problem from a non-ICT world. The havoc is enormous. Not just for the organization. What has to happen? The fixed mindsetter does not know that at that moment. This is not his job, is his reasoning. Is that good or bad? He chooses to stay in his comfort zone , because otherwise the challenge becomes too much, and threatens to enter the panic zone.

Then the Crisis Management team takes action. Together with the BC Manager, they determine the priorities and determine a strategic solution. And they do it thoroughly: relocation of the company, so that this crisis cannot happen again. And modernize: we are going to build a new server park from the ground up. With the latest technology. But first, the disaster recovery site must be set in motion. That is a cold site, the fixed mindsetter knows. And those servers, right, let’s think, how do we go about that? This is a known issue. The principles are the same as when setting up the primary server park. The procedures are on a spare laptop. The backups work, because they were regularly checked to fix minor system errors. “My dada” the fixed mindsetter thinks again. And the work is moving forward.

A few days later, the disaster recovery site is up and running.

That was possible, because his team leader let him continue to work from his comfort zone: known solutions for experienced problems.

The strategic decisions of the CMT ignore the fixed mindsetter. Their own work comes first.

The CMT is now having heated discussions: where should we relocate ? What threats are there? What is there we don’t know yet? And above all: is that opportune for the employees of the organization? Now maybe no one has drowned, but what are the threats to the staff in which place? How fast can we find a building again? And if we were to work hybrid, could we get by with a smaller building, let alone with a renovated mansion? All questions we were not aware of before. The questions are solved step by step. And that will make it all right, they want to believe. They can believe that, because they come from their comfort zone into a wide dare zone. They dare to experiment.

So far an example of a collaboration between fixed and growth mindset. Both groups in this example may be endowed with a more than decent IQ, and with interests in their field.

If I see a Growth Mind setting CMT in this way working together with a Fixed Mind setter, here as an example a specialist in ICT who only follows his talents and can make perfect analyzes with them, then I think that a fixed mindsetter, through his work for the purpose of disaster recovery, to the BC Manager and CMT are a good added value.

Some will not agree with this example, because the fixed mindsetter in the example has developed into an ITer. I wish to disprove this statement, because by entering an organization as a “unexperienced person” he ends up in a culture where he can be given the opportunity to learn the trade in ICT himself, where “we always did it like this: buy a server, find the instructions from the OS, and install according to good principles” builds in some degree of flexibility.

Some will say that I am ignoring the principle that a fixed mindsetter stops developing. I also want to contradict that, in the sense that it is very black and white. There may also be gray areas here. God must have his number.

However, there are also those that have indeed come to a standstill in terms of development. They will benefit more from a mind switch.

Let’s go back to the children with whom everything starts: “everyone is born with a growth mindset” you can read on the website of Charlotte Labee : https://www.charlottelabee.com/wat-is-het-different-between-growth -mindset-and-fixed-mindset/

However, along their life path, people are confronted with situations that teach them a fixed mindset.

Indeed, there is much to be said for tackling the situation from the very beginning. An enormous responsibility for schools, and also for pre-school education. Our crisis management can depend on it. Challenge those gifted children! Adapted education also for those who can do more than the average !

However, one thing has been debunked : fixed mindsets are not worthless. As you progress in your talents, you can become an expert in your field. And that can be a dream come true. That is possible with many, because I do not believe that the situation of people is either black or white. Doing something or doing nothing with your talents is much more black and white in my opinion. That is why interest is an important factor. It does allow development, albeit for a fixed mindsetter within his talents.

But a growth mindset can also be active within a field of a talent. These are often the people who work on original problems in their field. Putting together original solutions for new challenges step by step in order to arrive at a solution.

When I think about it, back related to ICT, I fear that the rogue world, hackers for example, is in the advantage. They look for solutions to steal where, for example, banks raise obstacles with security, in order to protect their customers’ money. And their successes are in the newspapers every day. They easily spend 70% of their stolen revenues in R&D. Among the “good guys” there are well-known anti-malware companies at the top of ICT Security. But they are always lagging behind. The new malware actually comes first.

Companies that develop new technology, thanks to their growth mindsets, can help an entire army of fixed mindsets find work.

“Do we all have to invent a new kind of bread to be bakers?” seems like a fair question to me. Many difficult problems can still be solved by fixed mindsetters, within their talents. And this situation is very common. Very many top doctors don’t come up with new remedies for unresolved medical problems, very many top engineers don’t bring new types of technologies to the market.

In my opinion, both can work together perfectly , as long as one can keep the fixed mindsetter within the comfort zone. Both can realize dreams. But I do think that both dream differently.

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields. Since 2012, he has been working at the Crisis Centre of the Flemish Government (CCVO), where he has progressed in BCM, risk management, and crisis management. Since August 2021, he has been a knowledge worker for the CCVO. As of January 2024, he works at the Department of Chancellery and Foreign Affairs of the Flemish Government. Here, he combines BCM, risk management, and crisis management to create a tailored form of resilience management to meet the needs of the Flemish Government.

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