The Growth Mindset – Professor Carol Dweck

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One of the more elusive pieces of the IFoA VSMD strategy is the “Mindsets” component of the Vision, Skillsets, Mindsets and Domains (VSMD) Strategy

Everyone understands

Vision – vision of the future – supported by purpose and values

Skillsets – the skills we bring to the table and

Domains – the fields actuaries can work now and in the future – the so-called wider fields.  

Mindsets were a more elusive and nebulous part of the strategic jigsaw, and present positioning and educational challenges on how we could advance this component. Mindsets are the attitudes of mind, preferences, and beliefs we have about ourselves. We show up this was in doing our work, in learning and in how we are perceived.

How can we change our mindsets? What mindsets should IFoA promote – how can we influence mathematical types (like many of us) who tend to be consistent and accurate to be any different?

Many past presidents of the IFoA have made exhortations that we need to be bolder, more imaginative, and be more communicative.

It was Frank Redington who nailed it in his Gold medal acceptance address in 1958 when he described the profession have four besetting virtues – Accuracy, Cautiousness, Consistency and Reticence. This is what I call the Quintessential Mindset. And appealed that we need to make room for other virtues like Imagination and Impulse.  

After a lengthy fermentation we landed on diversifying of our mindsets to include quintessential mindsets, innovative mindsets, and systemic mindsets in order to tackle different categories of challenges we face.  

We call for

  • Curiosity, Adaptability and the Growth Mindset – this is in response to the challenges brought forth by the digital and fourth industrial revolution –the innovative mindsets
  • Courage, imagination, and judgement – this is in response to the big systemic and sustainability challenges of our time – the systemic mindsets

The Growth Mindset is a specific psychological term coined by Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University. It calls for perseverance, experimentation, learning from failures and a self-belief that our capabilities are not fixed.

I was her student at Columbia University 20 years ago, and she was then directing this research then.

She concluded there a big difference it makes, as to what school children believe.

Beliefs in

  1. Entity Theory: Intelligence is a fixed trait
  2. Incremental Theory: Intelligence is a malleable quality

leads respectively to

  1. Helpless Response
  2. Mastery-Oriented Response – Cognitions: Self-instructions, self-monitoring; Positive prognosis

The Mastery Oriented Response is The Growth Mindset

To learn more, read:

What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means (Carol Dweck, 13 Jan 2016, Harvard Business Review)

Psychologist Carol Dweck: ‘Everyone is a work in progress’ (Andrew Hill, 6 Dec 2019, FT Life Arts)

Letter: Singapore strives to apply a ‘growth mindset’ (A letter by Tan Suee Chieh, 14 Dec 2019, FT Life Arts )

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success