7 mindset shifts that will make 2017 a breakthrough year for L&D

by | Jan 19, 2017 | Articles, Featured | 0 comments

Embracing the principles behind growth mindset thinking are more likely to lead us to a breakthrough this year. In this article, Laura Overton encourages all learning professionals to think bigger and reflect on what you can do next.

As we go into 2017, it is clear that the aspirations of L&D leaders are higher than ever. Our ambition to to improve efficiency, transform traditional approaches, boost performance cultivate agility AND influence culture is at an all time high. However, those of us that turn that ambition into a reality seems to be at an all-time low. Towards Maturity’s research over the last 13 years shows that this is a growing and uncomfortable trend. We need a breakthrough – fast!

So it is unsurprising that at this time of year we want to know ‘what’s hot and what’s not?’ Everyone wants that quick shortcut that will see them through to the finishing post. What’s hot right now is the trend list – they are everywhere! What’s not so hot is Carol Dweck’s ideas around the growth mindset – an idea that has influenced education for many years but is now being questioned as other scientists fail to replicate her results.

Yet as we prepare to tackle 2017 head on, I have a feeling that embracing the principles behind growth mindset thinking are more likely to lead us to a breakthrough year than slavishly following the trends.

Why we need to embrace a growth mindset

A fixed mindset, according to Dweck, is where people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success – without effort. Our friends at Internet Time Alliance compiled a list of 50 things that you think – if you have an old workplace mindset. They characterise innate attitudes that render our influence in the organisation, our control, our past successes our rigid definitions as defining, rigid and immovable.

The growth mindset on the other hand is where “…people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work – brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.”

The world is changing, our opportunities are changing and whilst we all have a mixture of both fixed and growth mindsets within us, I believe that shifting our attitudes will be fundamental to making difference to 2017 being a crushing year (or worse, a year of no change) to a breakthrough year.

We know from our research that top performing learning leaders are already achieving breakthroughs that others only dream of. Our latest report, Unlocking Potential, highlights some of the practical keys to their success.

Having looked at this for some time, whilst their tactics are helpful to know, it is their attitude that underpins their success. How they embrace a type of growth mindset that counters old style thinking.

Here are just seven mindset shifts that we need to make for a breakthrough year in 2017:

1. Attitude to change: work it

Change happens all around us – we can either use it as an excuse for lack of progress (the pace of technology change is ranked as an all time high by L&D professionals this year as a barrier to progress) or we can make a decision to work it to our advantage.

Check out how Lynne Rutherford from Brambles decided to leverage a fundamental directive by the CEO to become ‘One company – One team’ to radically transform how the business perceived learning. Or see how Mike Booth – now at Vodafone – has continually used changing business circumstances to innovate and shift the way that learning is supported!

2. Attitude to failure: learn from it

Those with a fixed mindset look to protect their reputation at all costs – let’s keep what works! Top learning leaders like Mike and Lynne above have been willing to take (calculated!) risks across their careers; they experiment, try new things and learn from failure. It is an inherent attitude, not one influenced by their circumstances.

We encourage others to learn from failure and set up stretch assignments to help them – we now need to embrace that ourselves.

3. Attitude to the unfamiliar: explore it

Data analysis, communication strategies, campaigns, knowledge mastery. The language of modern workplace learning is often very unfamiliar to the traditional trainer and training manager. Unfamiliar is scary! Fear causes us to retreat to safe territory, to the familiar, it’s only natural. What’s the alternative?

Be open to exploring new ideas – look at the research, read the case studies, get in touch with the protagonists, ask questions. Exploring new ideas with an open mind does not commit you to action but the action you take as a result, however small, might be the breakthrough you need.

4. Attitude to cynicism: disrupt it

In Europe, many of us kick start the year with a trip to the Learning Technologies show in London. I’ve been going since it started years ago and it is great to catch up with old friends. However it’s a time when cynicism can abound, particularly with those who have been around a bit. After all, we’ve been talking about how the latest tech will change the world, about performance, the need to get managers on board, to communicate more for decades. These are not new ideas but our cynicism and fixed mindset thinking kicks in when we believe we see no change.

Whilst the concept of disruption is all the rage right now in L&D, fundamentally we need to apply the idea of radically transforming the norm to our own thinking, especially our cynicism. A growth mindset will ask – why no change? Was it that the time wasn’t right? Is the time right now? What can I do to make a difference now?

5. Attitude to technology: test it

In our latest study we have not found that any of the technologies that we explore (and there are at least 40 of them!) have a direct correlation to business impact. Come to think of it, the technologies we use haven’t correlated directly to impact in any of our studies with over 5,000 L&D leaders over the past 13 years.

Yet technology, used appropriately, will play a fundamental role in our success in 2017 when we get our attitude right. The fixed mindset tend to follow 3 routes either: 1) ignore it completely 2) add a few content libraries and an LMS to tick the box but change little else or 3) believe each new trend will be the savior of the world.

The surprise in this year’s study wasn’t that top performing L&D leaders were embracing technology but they were more likely to be experimenting with new ideas, testing them to see if they will fit with the bigger picture, again embracing a type of ‘growth mindset’ that is open to new ideas and willing to flex.

The top trends are a good place to start – not to spot our favourites and pat ourselves on the back as a trend spotter, but to test our biases and build our awareness of what is out there that needs to be tested in the context of our own organisations.

6. Attitudes to you: believe in yourself

It was heartening to see that this year’s top learning teams were not led by those with a business or HR background but by those who have had a career in learning and development. However they have not rested on their early qualifications or their innate talent as people professionals. They actively built time to invest in their skills, their networks and their business experiences, looking for challenges and stretch assignments that took them out of their L&D comfort zone.

Uncomfortable, undoubtedly!

An inherent attitude to growth, to not standing still, has meant that their belief that they can make a difference has meant that they have made more difference in their organisations.

And last but by no means least…

7. Attitude to opportunity: unlock it!

Times of dramatic political and global change provide an enormous opportunity for people professionals passionate about making a difference to individuals. This year, don’t let it freak you out – grab the opportunity and unlock the potential of yourself, your business and the individuals within your organisation.

What do you think? How are you planning to grow in 2017?

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