HBR IdeaCast, published 12 January 2012
CAROL DWECK: ... my research has shown, contrary to popular opinion, you don’t praise talent. You don’t praise ability. You praised process.
SARAH GREEN: Mm. I would love it if you could talk a little more about that because that’s actually a piece of research that has changed the way my friends who are parents actually praise their kids, and I just think it’s fascinating.
CAROL DWECK: We’ve done a lot of work now showing that praising someone’s talent puts them into a fixed mindset. The whole self-esteem movement taught us erroneously that praising intelligence, talent, abilities would foster self-confidence, self-esteem, and everything great would follow. But we’ve found it backfires. People who are praised for talent now worry about doing the next thing, about taking on the hard task, and not looking talented, tarnishing that reputation for brilliance. So instead, they’ll stick to their comfort zone and get really defensive when they hit setbacks.
So what should we praise? The effort, the strategies, the doggedness and persistence, the grit people show, the resilience that they show in the face of obstacles, that bouncing back when things go wrong and knowing what to try next. So I think a huge part of promoting a growth mindset in the workplace is to convey those values of process, to give feedback, to reward people engaging in the process, and not just a successful outcome.