Pippi’s lesson for a Sparkling Agile Growth Mindset

In my previous blog I was looking for features and conditions to sparkle in Agile Teams. In this blog I investigate to what extent a Growth Mindset contributes to this. To finally summarize it all with wise words from Pippi Longstocking …

Learning is fun

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Some time ago I participated in a visualization-training. Koen De Keersmaecker taught us in one day how to convert a (business) message into drawings. Just like many other participants, I was a bit skeptical in advance because ‘I really can’t draw’. But what a cool experience it was! Thanks to the step-by-step explanation and structure, we were all able to make something to be proud of.

For me it was a good experience for two reasons. First – I now have the basic skills to visualize. Secondly – what a great feeling it is to learn something new, to do something that I had never done before. That generates energy! That energy was sensible in the entire group: there was laughter, learning ánd concentrated work. And in the end everyone was super proud of his or her steep learning curve 🙂.

In this blog I want to explore the second point of my experience: the wonderful and sparkling feeling it gives to focus on growth and development.

Growth Mindset versus Fixed Mindset

Carol Dweck studies human motivation. She spends her days diving into why people succeed and what’s within our control to foster success. Her theory of the Growth and Fixed Mindset, and the difference they make in outcomes, is incredibly powerful.

A Fixed Mindset assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way. You either are or aren’t good at something, based on your inherent nature – because it’s just who you are.

A Growth Mindset on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. A growth mindset means that you assume that everything can be learned. That you see possibilities and opportunities rather than problems and blockages. A growth mindset is about: thinking in solutions and possibilities, assuming that behavior and attitude are changeable, that new things can always be learned, making mistakes is part of it, feedback is welcome and is seen as something valuable, challenges are taken on.

I believe it is important for everyone to keep learning and developing. Not only to actually learn something new, but certainly also because of the feeling it gives. My recent experience with the visualization-training underlines this insight. Learning generates energy, confidence and pleasure. A Growth Mindset helps to make you sparkle!

Agile Mindset = Growth Mindset

Continuous Improvement is considered a foundational principle of Agile. Look at the Agile Manifesto where one of the principles is: “At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”

Well considered, this principle says that Agile teams have a Growth Mindset. A short feedback loop is their friend! Agile teams embrace the possibility to receive feedback on the product they deliver and the process they follow. So that they can react and adjust immediately. Agile teams embrace change and focus on improvement. Agile teams are transparent in everything they do, they think in solutions and possibilities, knowing that making mistakes is part of it.

If you look at projects and teams in this way, a traditional waterfall approach has some characteristics of working with a Fixed Mindset. At the start, if you know almost nothing, you have to make a detailed and fixed plan for the entire process. And from that moment on, everything that runs differently is a ‘deviation’ that needs to be defended and explained. In the period in which I worked as a projectmanager, I sometimes felt that I was doing little else than justifying why the project went differently than planned. It seemed like the client / sponsor and I had conflicting interests. While we really worked for the same company … Not valuable for the company, not inspirational for the team, not energising for me. A continuous sense of failure does not help if you want to sparkle!

Sparkling Agile

I believe that Sparkling Agile people, teams and organizations are characterized by a Growth Mindset. In Agile transformations it is therefore important to stimulate a Growth Mindset among people and teams. This is really an enabler for the transformation.

It has been shown that it is possible to develop a Growth Mindset. How? Acknowledge and embrace imperfections. View challenges as opportunities. Celebrate growth with others. Provide regular opportunities for reflection. Take risks in the company of others. Take ownership over your attitude.

This creates a positive mindset that focuses on development, solutions, improvement and transparency. A sparkling mindset that, in my opinion, is ultimately best served by a basic attitude that Pippi Longstocking describes with the historical words:

“I’ve never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that”.

Have a sparkling day!

Vincent Snijder is an experienced leader. He embraces the Agile mindset to create sparkling organizations - adaptive to change and a great place to work.

Vincent is partner at Inspinity.