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The psychological perspective on the (agile) mindset (Mindset: part 1/5)

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Not only Scrum Masters and agile coaches, but also executives and managing directors keep telling us the same thing: “People simply lack the right mindset.” And how should you change a mindset? Well. We tell you.

It is (partly) not an easy way, but it is doable. Let's start with what we mean by the right mindset or the “agile mindset”.

Mindset - what is that?

For the sake of simplicity, we will use the Stanford professor's definition of mindset below Carol Dweck. She has made an established classification that can also be used as a basis for the agile mindset.

Dweck (2006) differentiates between the fixed and growth mindset. People who tend to have a fixed mindset assume that their creativity, intelligence and talent are fixed and unchangeable. The logical consequence of this attitude: It is not worth trying. Mistakes are bad and you make them because you are simply not capable. Constructive criticism is useless. And so on.

On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe in the possibility of constant personal development (Dweck, 2006). This leads to a transformation of the meaning of “effort” and “difficulty” - both are only part of the way. The growth mindset perceives defeats as information about what to do differently - and not as a diagnosis of low talent or the like. The graphic (based on the visualization of Nigel Holmes) brings the difference of the mind sets to the point again and shows the proximity to the agile context.

However, humans are not either A or B. There is a continuum between fixed and growth mindset, in which some tend towards fixed and others towards growth mindset (Burnette et al., 2013). Likewise, it can vary between areas - I can have a fixed mindset about my creativity, but a growth mindset about dealing with difficult customers (Dweck, 1999).

So we now know how to scientifically classify an agile mindset. But is it worth striving for the growth mindset at all? We treat the research on this, which is directly related to your workplace in the next article, But I can anticipate the answer: definitely.

If you are interested in how you can develop an agile mindset as a team, check out our Page on this topic past.


Burnette, JL, O & #8217; Boyle, EH, VanEpps, EM, Pollack, JM & Finkel, EJ (2013). Mind-sets matter: A meta-analytic review of implicit theories and self-regulation. Psychological Bulletin, 139(3), 655-701.

Dweck, CS (1999). Essays in social psychology. Self-theories: Their role in motivation, personality, and development. New York, NY, US: Psychology Press.

Dweck, CS (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

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