Comment: Growth mindset the way forward

Morag Arnot is CEO of the Winning Scotland Foundation. Picture: Contributed
Morag Arnot is CEO of the Winning Scotland Foundation. Picture: Contributed
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THIS week’s visit to Scotland by American academic Professor Carol Dweck will be significant across a number of key areas in Scottish life.

Carol is professor of psychology and a world-leading motivation researcher at Stanford University who has spent her professional life researching why people succeed and how this can be fostered. In a series of events focused on sport, education and communities she will highlight the concept of growth mindset and how it can be applied here in a stimulating and practical way.

Over many years she has conducted research amongst children which shows that those who attribute failures to lack of ability rather than lack of effort will often fail themselves, even in areas where they may have been capable. Their focus on performance and the need to look clever regardless of whether they learn something in the process makes each new task a challenge to their self-image and any setback a personal threat. As a result they tend to limit themselves to only those experiences where they feel they will come out “on top” rather than looking for challenges or learning opportunities. This fixed mindset can not only hold an individual back but, applied collectively, it can also inhibit the development of a business, a community or potentially an entire nation.

Conversely, by putting the focus on learning, individuals and groups are more open to taking risks and usually less concerned about failure, as they recognise that each mistake can present a learning opportunity. The benefits of this growth mindset approach are as relevant to adults as they are to young people. In business, managers who adopted this mindset were more likely to deliver high-
quality coaching to colleagues and to seek constructive feedback to improve their own performance.

Success for both Scottish and British sport in recent years can be attributed to a number of factors, but we believe that having a growth mindset enables people to learn, develop, grow and compete with a focus on personal performance coupled with effort and determination. Think about Andy Murray’s success, Team GB’s 2012 Olympic medal haul and Scottish success at the Commonwealth Games. It is worth exploring the mindset of athletes and teams who focus on working hard and learning from mistakes.

Likewise, putting growth mindset at the heart of an education system can ensure it becomes a natural fixture in a young person’s learning journey. We can see the impressive results that this approach is producing within Dunbartonshire’s Vale of ­Leven Academy, and it could become standard in Scottish education.

Growth mindset can also enhance a community. Alongside civic leaders in Dundee and with input from our partners from Guernsey we are looking at how this approach can potentially have a self-perpetuating impact, creating a positive culture where more and more people believe in their community.

As a small charity, committed to creating a culture where all young people in Scotland have the opportunity to develop themselves and learn important life skills, Winning Scotland Foundation is delighted to invite Carol Dweck here to take part in this series of events which will demonstrate that children, adults and even groups of individuals here in Scotland can benefit from developing a growth mindset.

Those who understand they can learn new skills, improve existing ones and adapt to change will contribute to a more successful society in the future. A focus on learning and sustained hard work can contribute to continued success in sport, greater attainment in schools, increased confidence and a willingness to support change and development in communities across Scotland. Through the focus in these important areas we have a real platform for Scotland to begin developing its own, unique culture of a growth mindset that could create a more positive and progressive future, filled with opportunities for generations to come. «

Morag Arnot is CEO of the Winning Scotland Foundation. For more details on the charity and events with Professor Carol Dweck, visit: