If you’re responsible for delivering development solutions in your organisation – a leader, coach, mentor, or trainer perhaps – you will already know something valuable to your organisation:

Mindset determines learning outcomes.

Now I don’t mean to denigrate the fantastic content, expert instruction, or skilled facilitation on offer in many organisations, but without the ‘right’ mindset learning simply doesn’t happen. Yet despite the paradox, little attention has been paid to developing it and learning investment remains primarily focused on delivery.

So, why is this?

Well it seems science has been partly responsible.

Until relatively recently, studies suggested that intelligence – the basis of our understanding, reasoning, abstract thinking and problem-solving – is largely genetic and relatively fixed. Studies on personality – another area of long-standing interest to developers – suggested something similar. These conclusions lend themselves to a relatively deterministic view of people – that is, our abilities are ultimately determined by causes beyond our will.

However, recent discoveries – particularly in neurology and psychology – are challenging these beliefs and opening new, exciting possibilities for development. For instance, we have learned that our brains can radically improve their cognitive function when we learn new things – even when we’re older.

Carol Dweck, a professor from Stanford University who bridged ideas from personality and development psychology, conducted extensive research into the impact mindset has on our motivation, self-regulation, and achievement.

She suggested there are two basic types of mindset – ‘Fixed’ and ‘Growth’ – with significant implications for development.


Those with ‘fixed mindset’ believe their abilities are largely innate or pre-determined and can’t be developed significantly. They are likely to avoid challenging tasks or get frustrated and give up because they are concerned about failing. They prefer to stick to what they know, see feedback as criticism, and others’ success as threatening. You might hear them say things such as: ‘I can either do it or I can’t’ or ‘I’m good at it or I’m not.’ Their beliefs impact their preparedness to take risks, motivation to learn new things, and ability to continually develop their performance – a necessity in an ever-faster changing world.


Those with a GROWTH MINDSET believe their attitude determines their abilities, not their genetics. They think they can acquire almost any given skill provided they invest time and effort. They embrace challenge, view feedback constructively, setbacks positively and are likely to find others’ success inspiring rather than threatening. They might not emulate Einstein, but they believe they can get smarter if they work at it. Moreover, they see failure as an opportunity to develop, not a reflection of their abilities. They might say things like ‘I can eventually learn to do anything I want’ or ‘Challenges help me grow.’ Their beliefs enable them to take risks, accept difficult challenges, learn more effectively and continue developing their performance throughout their careers.

In simple terms, Dweck teaches us that:

  1. GROWTH MINDSET enables significantly better development outcomes than fixed mindset
  2. GROWTH MINDSET can be developed
  3. Learning is maximised when ‘teachers’ and ‘learners’ both have a GROWTH MINDSET

However, until recently there were no established tools to help measure and develop mindset – in stark contrast to the plethora of instruments for exploring ‘fixed’ traits – and what gets measured (or can be measured) gets done.

In 2011, Dr. Jodi O’Dell, an occupational psychologist, changed the game when she developed an empirically validated diagnostic based on the growth mindset concept. She called this ENGAGE.

It provides a snapshot of how you think and feel about yourself and your challenges, and highlights things that currently inhibit or accelerate your development. This enables you to determine practical actions to improve your learning outcomes.

For organisations and development professionals interested in leveraging their investment, it is a gift.

It is simple and intuitive to use, surfaces quickly and easily what might otherwise require protracted and potentially delicate conversations, and complements just about any development intervention you can think of. It can be used at an individual, team and organisational level, and can be effective with or without coaching support.

Most importantly, it enables you produce better development outcomes for your learners and organisation.

You might have already known how important mindset is, but now there’s a tool that can help you develop it. Remember: GROWTH MINDSET improves learning outcomes – ENGAGE enables you to develop GROWTH MINDSET.

Want to know more about this approach to improving the outcomes from your development activity? Over the next three weeks we will be telling you more about ENGAGE, what it measures and how you can use it to transform your results.

Contact the Co-Creation team and discover how we can help you develop a growth mindset and improve your organisation’s learning outcomes. Call: +44 (0) 7876 024555, or email: info@co-creation.group