Applying the “Growth Mindset” to Your MBA Experience


Developed by psychologist Carol S. Dweck, the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, the growth mindset is the belief that your most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.

How does it help an MBA student in the classroom? Laura White, (MBA-2018-19) at Oxford University’s Said Business School, seeks to answer the question in a student’s blog post.

She says after enrolling, she felt unsure about her ability to learn certain skills. However, the school had included a growth mindset session at the launch of the program. The Speaker was Greg Searle, Olympic Gold Medalist rower of Britain, who has since turned the motivational speaker on goal setting, communication, adapting to change, and developing trust within a team.

The second strategy is to get a growth mindset buddy. While fighting her fixed mindset that fears maths, she says she sits next to someone who is very familiar with the business finance concepts.

He stressed the need to remain confident and to remember that failure was a key part of learning. Carol says while she found his talk entertaining and inspiring, she wondered how she would develop confidence, especially in subjects like Maths.

But then, she says she managed to draw up three specific strategies to maintain a growth mindset.

The first was to keep a portfolio. Here, she drew upon her experience as a pre-school teacher. She had a student who was unhappy with the way her lower-case “e’s” looked when she wrote her name. The problem was resolved by showing her examples of when she wrote her name in the beginning of the year and pointing out how it has changed due to her dedication and hard work.

So, Linda says she keeps all her work on the practice exercises so that whenever she felt discouraged about learning something new, she could go back and see how far she has come. It makes me feel empowered and hopeful about newer challenges.

The second strategy is to get a growth mindset buddy. While fighting her fixed mindset that fears maths, she says she sits next to someone who is very familiar with the business finance concepts.

“Not only does he study with me, but he is also a great teacher because he gives me growth mindset-oriented feedback. Just as I am starting to think, “I shouldn’t ask this question, it’s too basic, this is clearly out of my league,” my growth mindset buddy says, “Now this problem is really interesting…the maths are simple, what you need to do is teach yourself to think this way and ask these questions…”

While helping her connect the concepts learned so far, he reminds her that he too commits mistakes and needs practice.

The third strategy is to use WOOP, a mental strategy to help people meet their goals. The first of its key elements is ‘Wish’, that allows you to choose a wish that could be challenging but achievable in the next four weeks.

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In Laura’s case, it involved maintaining the pace with the business finance content such that if she was to take an exam on the course content during the first exam period, she should be able to do the problems

Next is the Outcome, what would be the best possible outcome in four weeks and how would you feel? Laura says she would know the content well enough to be able to teach it to others and also any new exercise introduced in the time expected by the professor.

Then comes the Obstacle. What is your main inner obstacle keeping you from achieving your wish? Laura says for her, it would be a fixed-mindset bias that she is not good at math, which causes her to be anxious about complex problems involving quantitative data.

Finally the Plan. What is the one, high impact thing you can do to overcome that obstacle? Laura says if she starts to feel anxious about a complex problem involving quantitative data, she takes a deep breath and visualises the hard work she undertook in preparing and the success she had. Then she will read the problem again slowly, underlining key information.

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