My 30-year career in the commercial world – from major global FMCG brands to fast-growth tech businesses has given me a fascinating insight into the applicability of management ‘theory.’ Trends rise and fall, initiatives, campaigns, and movements battle for cut-through. It is interesting to reflect on how they have affected how we think about and manage our own working lives and the teams we manage. From breaking glass ceilings to ‘leaning in’, ‘MBWA’ (management by walking around) to marginal gains – psychologists have spent decades trying to understand humans and increase ‘performance’ – from athletes to entrepreneurs.
One of the concepts that have always stuck with me is that of ‘growth mindset’. First developed by psychologist Carol Dweck in her 2007 book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, the term describes one’s underlying belief and approach towards learning and intelligence. If you have a growth mindset, you believe you can become smarter, more productive, more talented, and therefore more successful through effort and perseverance. Conversely, those with a ‘fixed mindset’ believe in a limited potential – no matter what you do – you cannot improve so it is not worth the effort.
Parents will be familiar with the theory of having a growth mindset even if they don’t use the exact phrase. Anyone that has run alongside a child wobbling on a bike hour after hour or sat through the painstaking process of teaching children to read, write or understand early maths has the first-hand experience of how effort and perseverance can unfold the most incredible progress.
The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics showcased some of the most rigorous growth mindset. Tom ‘I haven’t won gold yet’ Daly has persevered for years in his pursuit of the top medal. He has recently described the continuous work, his aim to always ‘be the best he can ever be’, and his mindset shift to chasing those ahead of him rather than worrying about who is chasing him. A few weeks ago, I attended a brilliant Tech Nation event with Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson. It was remarkable to hear the parallels between dedicated training for Olympic greatness and our industry. Tanni talked about the importance of having like-minded people around you, “who challenge you and push you” and how “there is so much more to the story than just gold. Did you do well? Could you have done better?” She said she had never thought of her career in sport to be scaling up but that’s what it is. “Every year you have to be better, faster, stronger and you have to win those medals.”
Growth mindset is an ever-present concept in the world of fast-growth technology. Founders, engineering and product teams, and everyone involved in these ambitious innovation machines are continuously tinkering – improving, developing, learning, and researching to move the dial. Many in this community are breaking into uncharted territory on a daily basis, striving to solve some of the world’s biggest problems with technology that simply didn’t exist two years ago. The tech never feels ‘ready’, there is always something more to do and improvements to be made, and with a fixed mindset that can feel relentless. The pandemic and the more recent ‘pingdemic’ has made the battle to maintain a growth mindset even harder. People are tired and the effects of the last 18 months are being felt across the board.
Within my own team, I am encouraging people to look back at how far we have come. In the face of adversity and locked away in our remote offices, we have made the most extraordinary progress in every area. I am incredibly excited about the major engineering projects we are working on and the new customers and partners we are working with to create some truly extraordinary solutions. But the job will never be done – the last mile of the marathon always leads to the start of a new one. Those of us that work in this fast-growth industry, particularly the fantastic team at Speechmatics, always have more to do, improvements to make, and breakthroughs to discover. However, each day creates more momentum and acceleration towards our ultimate goals. We’re continually pushing boundaries and reimagining what is possible.
Katy Wigdahl, CEO, Speechmatics
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