Does your company have a ‘Growth Mindset’?
by Alanoud A. Madhi
A dinosaur. By the early nineties, this is how tech industry experts were describing IBM. Many were also predicting its rapid extinction. In 1964, IBM had introduced its new mainframe, System 360, which was acknowledged as a major technological advance that heralded a new era of computing and applications that could be run by business, government and science. By 1970 revenue had surged to $7.5 billion, up from $3.2 billion the year the new mainframe was introduced.
So what happened? The eighties saw the shift towards PCs; newer, nimbler firms started stealing market share from IBM. And software, rather than hardware, proved to be the real value in the computer age.
Big Blue had become complacent, remaining narrowly focused on the products and services it already offered, and the customers it already served. In other words, it continued to do what had once made it successful. Lack of innovation, forward thinking and growth almost cost IBM its “life.”
But today, IBM is once again considered a tech giant and a major player in the industry. It has a global presence and offers an exquisite range of services and products, ranging from data analytics to cloud computing, apps and business consulting.
How did they do it?
IBM realized that the environment had changed and it too needed to change and innovate. The US economy had globalized and the world had become a faster-moving place. The company started identifying as a global firm, and allowing – indeed, encouraging – its employees to be more innovative. Had IMB failed to evolve, had it not invested in adapting and developing its business, it would have not survived.
Stanford University professor Carol Dweck is a leading researcher in the field of motivation, achievement and success. One of her major contributions to the field has been her study of mindsets, and the examination of “fixed” versus “growth” mindsets. People who have a fixed mindset strive for success and seek to avoid failure at all costs. Those inclined towards the latter thrive on challenges and see failure as a launching pad for growth and for stretching existing abilities.
The concept, of course, doesn’t apply only to individuals, but companies too.
While it has been shown that companies need motivated employees to ensure its success, this alone is not enough. Companies need employees with a “growth” mindset. Facebook and Google are great examples of this.
These new tech giants allow their employees to be innovative in their own ways and they encourage continuous learning. They have ditched the ranking system that labels some employees as “stars” – a system that critics say hinders collaboration and risk taking – both of which are vital in a rapidly changing world. Instead, they focus on learning across the organization. Creating a culture of learning – a growth mindset – pays off with more skilled and agile employees.
By focusing on change and looking to the future, organizations are better placed to anticipate customers’ future needs and changes in the market. That way, the organization is not caught off guard when an upstart competitor comes along.
And this is certainly the case for IBM. While its mainframe it still going strong – it celebrated its 50th birthday in 2015 – Big Blue has diversified into many other areas.
That old dinosaur has life in it yet, and it was a growth mindset that made it survive.