Individuals who receive growth mindset training display greater initiative in entrepreneurial business growth, thanks to the newfound confidence they gain to apply learned business principles effectively. According to a new study published in Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal, growth mindset interventions enhance entrepreneurship training programs and improve their effectiveness by translating knowledge into action.
“It’s not just teaching confidence,” says lead researcher Shad Morris of Brigham Young University. “Part of the problem is we just tell people, ‘You’re great, you can do anything you want.’ But when they can’t, they quit. A growth mindset is something different. A growth mindset is a belief that your mind can actually grow and change.”
The research team — which also included Chad Carlos of Brigham Young University, Geoffrey M. Kistruck of York University, Robert B. Lount Jr of Ohio State University, and Tumsifu Elly Thomas of the University of Dar es Salaam — were approached by a government organization in Tanzania that works to alleviate poverty. Their training program for necessity entrepreneurs, which was designed by the United Nations International Labor Organization, wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped.
With an understanding of how applying a growth mindset helps students in an education setting, the team added a half-day growth mindset training for some of the entrepreneurs, while the control group received reinforcement of their existing business training. The growth mindset training consisted of three modules: learning about the science of neuroplasticity; case studies of local individuals who had demonstrated a growth mindset when they failed but tried again; and an activity where participants experienced using a growth mindset in a basic setting.
Both the control and test groups were asked to keep a journal for a month to track feedback from facilitators and to note any time they tried something new for their business, such as a new innovation or a new way to market themselves. Overall, those who received the growth mindset training saw a 50% increase in entrepreneurial actions that involved taking risks, innovating, or otherwise doing new things for their business to improve its chances of success.
The researchers found that growth mindset training can help individuals overcome their fixed or scarcity mindsets, which are particularly common among those in at-risk or poverty situations. When people deal with a constantly scarce environment, they commonly stick to what has worked in the past, or they believe that they would be rich “if it were meant to be.” Moving past this mindset has less to do with gaining skills or funding, but more to do with psychology.
The study was one of the first of its kind testing growth mindsets in a business setting, versus education setting, and Morris and his team have already been contacted by organizations looking to implement similar programs.
“You don’t have to revamp what you’re doing; there’s just an additional component,” Morris says. “There’s a ton of research that shows even in grade schools, this one intervention like this can last up to at least a year.”