growth mindset & the t-shape

HBR article Paul A. O’KeefeCarol DweckGreg Walton SEPTEMBER 10, 2018

Some people lean more toward the view that interests are inherent in a person, simply waiting to be awakened or found — this is what we call a fixed mindset of interest. Others lean more toward the view that interests can be developed and that, with commitment and investment, they can grow over time — we call this a growth mindset of interest.

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Some companies have seen the value of cross-disciplinary problem-solving and have implicitly adopted a growth mindset of interest. For example, Tim Brown, CEO and president of the design consulting firm IDEO, has emphasized the value of the “T-shaped person.” The vertical line of the T represents one’s depth of expertise in a field, whereas the horizontal line represents one’s diverse interests, and ability to work and collaborate across areas. Like those with a stronger growth mindset, T-shaped people are experts but do not necessarily have a singular focus, and look for inspiration from multiple areas.

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Innovation requires both reaching across fields and, often, acquiring more than a surface-level understanding of those fields. This means that when people reach across fields they must maintain that interest even when the material becomes complex and challenging. A growth mindset of interest may help promote this kind of resilience.

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