Identity or behaviour?

Guy Kawasaki pointed me to this useful article about the research of Carol Dweck.

Guy’s summary is terrific and I won’t repeat it. The very short version is this:

If someone thinks their ability is just down to their innate talent they’re less likely to improve.

If someone believes their poor performance is because they don’t have the talent… they’re also unlikely to try to improve.

Dweck’s research suggests that people who engage with things with a mindset of seeing what they can learn will tend to do better than those who are seeking evidence of whether they’re good enough.

Guy picks out some excellent examples of constructive feedback that supports a learning mindset and avoids positive or negative labelling of the person. This echoes what I often suggest to people giving feedback: get really specific.

I so often run into people who get stuck and say “but that’s just who I am”. (The person I run into most often on that is me.) It’s very liberating to get away from that kind of identity-level statement and realise that it’s more helpful to see the things we do as just that: what we do (or have been doing) and not who we are, and not necessarily what we might be doing in future.

Sidenote: The article is titled “The Effort Effect” which I think is slightly unfortunate as it might play to the paradigm that this is about effort versus laziness. The shift in mindset that Dweck’s work focusses on is more subtle than that. The consquence is that people have a greter appetite for challenge: for me that’s not about making effort but feeling energised.

1 thought on “Identity or behaviour?

  1. Mark McGuinness

    Oh this is great – it’s amazing what people can do when they focus on doing instead of labeling 😉

    I’ve lost count of the number of writers I’ve seen who get stuck by agonizing over whether or not they’re a ‘good writer’ or a ‘real writer’ – when they focus on the nuts and bolts of how they actually write (or don’t write) then they discover all sorts of options.

    Reply

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