The very first time I was introduced to Carol Dweck's Mindset book, I had an aha-moment. The idea that everyone is capable of being their best if they just realize that they have to work at it seems so simple, and yet can be a difficult exercise for those who have a fixed mindset already. The way that people react to being criticized is so telling of their fixed or growth mindset. 

I've had many opportunities to see how fixed mindsets react to "failure". For some, the first thing they need to do is to find another reason why they or their project was rejected, rather than looking at what role they had in the process. For other's the public acknowledge of a bad idea or a "failure" is enough to send them into a dark hole. 

Growth mindset is a self - reflective process that requires one to be vulnerable and brave as one always see mistakes or failure as a way to  learn rather than to blame. 

This week, I received a blog post   Janna Peskett, the director of curriculum design for Mindset Works, called The Most Spectacular Failure. In it she talks about her and her team spending 3 days creating a lesson plan for a competition only to get the Worst Idea prize. Not only did they get the prize, they had to go on stage in front of all their colleagues to receive the award. She acknowledges the hurt, disappointment, and humiliation and fighting the urge to blame it on other people and to deflect one's role in this setback. She recommends the following: 

  1. - Seek Feedback. Resist the urge to defend yourself or make excuses
  2. - Focus on what you can control. 
  3. - Reframe the failure - what is this failure/criticism really need to improve
  4. - Ask yourself  - "What life lesson can I take away from this"

As Im reading this, I find myself thing -  but what about when that failure gets someone hurt or has a deep implication on business or other people. Then I get another email in my inbox entitled "Mistakes Are Not All Created Equal" by Eduardo Briceno, the CEO of Mindset Works. 

He outlines the following 4 kinds of mistakes: 

  1. - Stretch Mistakes
  2. - Aha-moment Mistakes
  3. - Sloppy Mistakes
  4. - The High-stakes mistakes 

Breaking out the mistakes into these 4 categories was really helpful in that one can provide differentiated responses. So, a high-stakes mistake that results from sloppy mistakes where someone gets hurt or has a potential high-stakes financial or situational outcome needs to have a different response than "I will try harder next time". Whereas a stretch mistake, where we are trying something new and make a mistake is a valuable learning opportunity. 

With children, we incorporate this work by: 

  • Offering learning opportunities to develop a growth mindset - to make Stretch mistakes and Aha-moment mistakes. 
    • Never saying that a child is smart  - instead, we provide them information. 
    • Answering "Do you like it" or "What do you think of it" with information that shows the child that we believe in them by paying close attention to the work that they did. 
    • Activities that incorporate a level of failure/mistakes that stretches the growth mindset
  • Designing systems and safety rules that are designed to lessen or prevent High-Stakes mistakes. 
  • Designing learning experiences to maximize engagement so that sloppy mistakes are lessened and offering reflection when mistakes made are from loss of focus rather than ability.  


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