Mindset: Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset

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At Knoldus, we believe in building and grooming a “Growth Mindset”. We understand that people are born with unique genetic structures, meaning they are initially better than others at different things. However, those with a growth mindset believe that one can always improve, catch up, or even surpass others’ natural talents and that’s the truth.

“If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve,” Debbie Millman 

There is a very interesting study on mindsets that can create a high performing organization. As a part of our training module, we tried to study mindsets of our employees and the way we can adopt a growth mindset as we strongly believe that our minds are malleable.

Difference between Fixed mindset & Growth mindset

According to researcher Carol Dweck, there are two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset

In a fixed mindset, people believe their qualities are fixed traits and therefore cannot change. These people document their intelligence and talents rather than working to develop and improve them.They also believe that talent alone leads to success, and effort is not required. 

In a growth mindset, people have an underlying belief that their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. When people believe they can become smarter, they realise that their effort has an effect on their success, so they put in extra time, leading to higher achievement. 

People with a fixed mindset always want to appear intelligent because they believe that they were born with a fixed level of intelligence that cannot be modified. These people have a fear of looking dumb to people because they do not believe that they can redeem themselves once other people look at them as being non-intelligent. 

In a growth mindset, however people believe their abilities and intelligence can be developed with effort, learning, and persistence. Their basic abilities are simply a starting point for their potential. They don’t believe everyone is the same, but they hold onto the idea that everyone can become smarter if they try.

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static given which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. 

A “growth mindset” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of non-intelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.

How does it effect the psychology of a person

How does this belief manifest itself in real life? Well, a person’s mindset appears typically in situations that are new and/or difficult, and which can lead to one of two ways to respond. When in a state of a “fixed mindset”, the person will perceive the new situation as a threat, leading to distress and anxiety, an inability to listen and learn and make rational decisions.

On the other hand, when in a state of a “growth mindset”, they can look at it as a challenge that can be mastered, leading to excitement, helping them to be resilient and hopeful. The reason for this different reaction to new and difficult situations is the person’s fundamental belief that they can learn, they can get better, and that development and growth are natural elements of life.


The two different mindsets lead to very different experiences and developments in life.

Consequences of a fixed mindset:

When you have a fixed mindset, the following will happen to you:

People who believe their qualities are fixed will not grow much because, of course, there is nothing to develop when you believe your qualities are fixed: you either have it, or you don’t.

They believe indeed that high effort equals low ability. Skilled people, they think, use and rely on their innate skills and should not need to work hard at all.

Are mostly be busy defending your ego

Fixed mindset people do work hard as well though.

They work hard protecting their egos by avoiding challenges and boosting their self esteem through validation seeking.

Thus fixed mindset people often build their ego around their qualities, which makes them horrendously dependent on results and people’s judgement.

Still More….. consequences

Have you ever noticed people battling to be “right?” That’s a hallmark of a fixed mindset.

People looking at how many likes their picture got on Facebook? Major fixed mindset component.

Your results define you (= you are a slave to results)

People who believe in fixed traits also have an urgency to succeed, because there’s no “getting better”, no “testing yourself”. Succeeding means you’re good, losing means you’re bad.

And when they do succeed, they often feel a sense of superiority, because success means their fixed traits are better than others’.

You spend all your efforts making excuses

When people with a fixed mindset lose they try to “repair their self-esteem” rather than learning from their failures.

Failures indeed often take the shape of denying, blaming someone else, looking for those who are worse off, making excuses or, of course, never competing at all.

Never competing at all feels safe for fixed mindset people because a great fear for them is that of failing and being left without excuses.

Consequences of a growth mindset:

People with a growth mindset are the complete opposite:

Major growth over time

As opposed to a fixed mindset, a growth mindset makes you concerned with improving, which leads to major growth and development over time.

Anti-fragile ego

In the growth mindset, failure can, of course, be a painful experience, but failure does not define you.

Failure is a problem to be faced, learned from and overcome, which makes you more anti-fragile. You become grittier and more determined.

The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset.

Still More…. consequences

Indeed the growth mindset allows people to love what they’re doing and continuing doing so in the face of difficulties and struggles. You become more outcome independent

While the fixed mindset is all about the outcome -because if you fail you’re a failure- the growth mindset allows people to value what they’re doing regardless of the outcome.

Individuals with a fixed mindset tend to be interested only in feedback on their success in activities to the degree that it serves to evaluate their underlying ability. They are not using the feedback to learn, since they do not believe that their success depends on their effort to learn. Rather, they believe that success depends on the level of innate ability that they have. Therefore, they dread failure, because it suggests constraints or limits that they will not be able to overcome.

A growth mindset, on the other hand, attributes success to learning. Therefore, the individual is not terrified of failure, because it only signals the need to pay attention, invest effort, apply time to practice, and master the new learning opportunity. They are confident that after such effort they will be able to learn the skill or knowledge, and then to improve their performance.

Traits of people with Growth Mindset:

Did you know that employees in a “growth mindset” organisation are:

47% likelier to say that their colleagues are trustworthy,

34% likelier to feel a strong sense of ownership and commitment to the organisation, and,

49% likelier to say that the company fosters innovation.

What can an organisation do to develop a growth mindset.

So, what are some things that you and your organisation could be doing to develop a growth mindset? Carol Dweck’s research outlines the main attributes that create a growth-mindset environment. This includes; presenting skills as learnable

conveying that the organisation values learning and perseverance, not just ready-made genius or talent, giving feedback in a way that promotes learning and future success and presenting managers as resources for learning (Dweck, 2007).

When people are taught a growth mindset, they become more aware of opportunities for self-improvement, more willing to embrace challenges, and more likely to persist when they confront obstacles.


The reference for this blog has been taken from Google Rework Study.

It is based on the called “Project Oxygen” initiated by the team of engineers and researchers of Google in the year 2008 to understand if managers are important for productive teams and if yes then what are the traits important for all managers to develop to be great managers at Google. I would like to express my special thanks to the team who lead the Project Oxygen under Google Re-work project as this had helped me design an effective training plan and module for our managers and the outcome was a great learning experience for everyone.