Can our mindset make the difference?

Article by Anna Groh | Illustration by Beatrice Bandiera


Microsoft – all of us heard of the rising tech company with headquarter in Seattle. It turned into one of the most valuable companies worldwide, competing with Amazon and worth more than 800 billion dollars. Since 2014, it has gone through an incredible market rise, as the stock price has more than doubled (Lohr, 2018).

In the same year, Satya Nadella became the new CEO of Microsoft. But he did not just give the company a new face: he seized the opportunity to change the company’s culture from the ground up. “Lifelong Learning” is one of the company’s main mottos, placing “Learn it all” over “Know it all” (Ark, 2018).

Nevertheless, this is not gonna be an article about tech companies or business strategies. I want to shift the attention away from the brand itself towards the one person that is behind this success: CEO Satya Nadella.

I want to point out one thing that has absolutely nothing to do with numbers, market analysis or programming, something we don’t even learn in school: how to adopt a growth mindset.

Growth vs. fixed mindset

Surely, we already have a fair idea about what we understand to be a “mindset”. It is our set of attitudes which includes our beliefs about the world, social values, perspectives and ideologies.

Therefore as Meier pointed out, it can be seen as a tendency to evaluate things in a certain way and predetermines responses to or interpretations of situations. 

Moreover as people are different, so can be mindsets and people’s individual ways of reacting to situations such as feedback, challenges and failures.

Do you agree with some of the following thoughts?

“I stick to what I know”. “I am either good at it or I’m not because my abilities are predetermined”. “When I fail, I am not good enough”.

And now, what do you think about these statements?

“Feedback is a good thing”.“My effort and attitude determine my success”. “When I fail, I will grow”. (Ranadive, 2016).

If you caught yourself agreeing mostly to the first series of statements, it indicates a mindset that is called a “fixed” one. People with a fixed mindset do not step out of their comfort zone and are afraid of challenges since they want to avoid any kind of failure.

Instead, they stay on the safe side and stick with what they already know; feedback is seen as personal. Their main belief is that abilities and intelligence are fixed and either already existing, or not.

If you, instead, felt more aligned to the second half of statements, you likely have a more “growth” mindset. These people, on the very opposite, believe that everyone can change and achieve more through effort, experience, learning and the right attitude. Moreover, abilities and intelligence are not fixed and can be trained. They are eager to work towards a better version of themselves, which is why failure is seen as an opportunity to improve and challenges are faced with curiosity (Ranadive, 2016).

This doesn’t mean they live in a dreamworld, it’s more about living up to one’s possible potential, which is never really knowable to oneself (Cherry, 2020).

Nadella became a role model for leaders around the world because the right mindset is fundamental. Good leaders encourage a culture of learning development and creativity. Since we live in the age of technology, they know that innovation is key.

Mindset and success

According to Forbes, for innovation to happen, leaders have to create a space with room for mistakes because without risk-taking, creativity has no ground. In his book “The Big Five for Life”, John F. Strelecky creates a metaphor for employees, comparing them with papaya seeds.

He emphasizes the need to give every employee enough space to grow so that they won’t compete for resources, while at the same time, leaving them close enough to support each other with the resources they need. Their coexistence, then, will be they key for every tree to grow fruits.

Leaders must, most certainly, adopt a certain mindset if they don’t want to fall behind: a company’s success starts at a micro-stage, through personal change. Eventually, a company’s success can be seen at the macro-level by the outside-world.

A common mistake people make is to be outcome-oriented, rather than process-oriented. Too often, we’re focused on the comparison between one’s personal success in relation to a more successful person as it is in a specific moment. But how did this person get there, how long did it take, and how many challenges did he/she have to master before?

Once we focus on these questions, we will be able to see new ways of getting closer to what we want and be more satisfied with each step of our journey.

Now, the fixed-and growth-mindset model isn’t meant to create a scale from a good mindset on the one end and a bad mindset on the other. It is supposed to create a continuum on which you can identify your own tendency of perceiving the world around you, making you aware of possible changes that can be made within this perception. Everyone is able to change their mindset in a realistic way, which involves plenty of self-reflection along the way.

It’s our own beliefs that make a difference in our life and defines success or failure for us. Small shifts in thinking every day will start the journey towards a more mindful life.

Eventually, you will realize that the only person entitled to set your limits is you.  

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