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How to ‘grow’ your intelligence? - banner image

How to ‘grow’ your intelligence?

By Manasi Bharati, Content Consultant

Do you believe that you can learn from your failures or do you believe that your failures determine your life’s success?  Do you believe that the journey is more important than the destination or do you believe that the destination is all that matters?  Valuing the journey and learning reflects what a growth mindset is. 

And the good news is that psychological researchers say that a ‘growth’ mindset can be developed. Everyone can change and grow through application and experience in their efforts and through deliberate practice.


So, what really is a growth mindset?

A growth mindset means believing that intelligence is malleable, and that one can ‘grow’ intelligence.  It is the implicit belief of individuals that they can develop themselves by challenging themselves and constantly putting in efforts to learn through their failures and others’ successes, then they ‘grow’.  A growth mindset generates a desire to learn which leads to the following:

  1. Embracing challenges
  2. Persisting in unfavourable and difficult situations
  3. Working hard and putting efforts to succeed
  4. Learning from criticism and feedback
  5. Finding lessons in others’ success stories and getting inspired to do more


Research over the years has shown that just as the muscles in your body can be trained and developed by lifting weights and exercising, your brain as a muscle can be developed too. The brain grows stronger and larger like your biceps or triceps when you use it.

The more you challenge yourself, the more will your brain cells multiply and grow stronger. 


What does this mean for organisations?

As individual employees, your beliefs can transform your work behaviour and can affect your work relations, performance and your overall life.  Scientific studies across the world have established that with a growth mindset, the following things are possible:

  1. Individuals are more motivated to give their best at work and eliminate their harmful traits
  2. Individuals perform better in their appraisals, employee coaching, leadership performance and negotiation performance
  3. Individuals with a proactive personality and transformational leadership perform well, but a growth mindset makes their performance better
  4. Individuals see a decrease in anxiety and risk avoidance at work and an increase in engagement


How can you develop a growth mindset?

To develop a growth mindset, you should focus on adopting practices for personal development and learning. Let’s look at how you can do that.


What individuals can do:

You can adopt the following six simple habits to develop a growth mindset:

Practice a skill regularly: Practicing a skill will allow you to broaden your repertoire of skills and to deepen your knowledge, insight and capabilities. You can grow by practicing and implementing the following:

  1. Identify and classify a skill that you want to improve upon
  2. Deliberately and consistently practice it
  3. Evaluate your progress so that you can keep track of how you are improving
  4. Repeat the actions and practice a task until it becomes natural to you


Be optimistic: Optimism in your thoughts can help you to become persistent in your approach and daily activities which will eventually enable you to develop a growth mindset. You may:

  1. Listen to positive podcasts or meditation tracks to feel good and confident about yourself.
  2. Re-affirm to yourself daily that, “I am content”, “I am enough”. If you have space in your office, then you can put up a positivity poster on your desk.
  3. You can use positive language. Replace words and phrases like ‘impossible’ and ‘cannot’ with words that emphasize strength and success like ‘challenging’ and ‘must’.
  4. Create the right environment. Listen to music that uplifts you.  Watch inspirational movies and shows.  Read motivational books.
  5. Appreciate your life. Take some time to enjoy what you’ve already achieved with your life.  Think about what you did to get where you are and use that as a reminder of your capabilities.


Learn from your mistakes: Let go of mistakes. You’re bound to fail at some things. Learn what you can and move on instead of beating yourself up over and over. You can grow by doing the following:

  1. Accept the situation and take responsibility for it
  2. Reframe the situation in your mind to create learning opportunities for yourself
  3. Analyse the situation rationally from all perspectives
  4. Make a contingency plan for future application
  5. Create a list of reasons to avoid similar situations
  6. Review the progress that you have made periodically


Learn a new skill daily: Learning new skills can open up new avenues and opportunities in your life and your career. You can grow by implementing the following steps:

  1. Finding the learning style that best suits you
  2. Selecting the sources of information that you will refer to
  3. Developing a curriculum for yourself
  4. Applying the skills and knowledge that you may have learnt by sharing


Accept criticism and learn from it: Criticism is an opportunity for self-growth, for strengthening relationships and for building trust. You can grow by following certain dos and don’ts when it comes to receiving criticism.

  1. Don’t take criticism personally and become self-defensive
  2. Ask questions to get clarification on any doubts about the criticism received
  3. Listen actively and attentively to your critic
  4. Don’t blame others or the situation for the comments received on the shortcomings
  5. Review the situation and evaluate your actions and understand other approaches


Learn from other’s success stories: To learn from success, you need to analyse and evaluate the journey until success just as you would investigate a failure. Figuring out why it worked, what factors contributed to the success, what actions did you take and what were the consequences and their impact will allow you to develop a growth mindset. You can grow by getting inspired and inspiring others for progress by:

  1. Defining success for yourself
  2. Selecting the sources from where you will get the stories of success
  3. Analysing the stories for learnings and values
  4. Sharing and summarizing what you have learnt and end it with applying it to your life.


Growth mindsets allow people to embrace challenges, look at obstacles as learning opportunities and keep trying until they succeed. 


What organisations can do:

To cultivate a growth mindset in organisations requires combined efforts at all levels. Organisations can adopt developmental human resource practices. The leadership and team members are equally responsible for adopting such an approach.

  1. Create opportunities for career coaching activities like offering of internal or external coaching or mentoring

  2. Optimise career development of all its workers including their leaders, teams and individuals

  3. Cultivate employee abilities through various developmental programs within the organisation

  4. Demonstrate that the organisation supports learning and training

  5. Practice non-threatening peer feedback and learning opportunities programs such as study-leave programmes, multisource feedback, mentoring, sponsoring continued education, etc.

  6. Publicise the success profiles and career-growth journeys of employees and teams within the organisation



“To shift a perspective or mindset, you need to create an experience where people recognise how their fixed mindset limits their ability to perform or generates an unwanted emotional state or outcome.’’ – Ian Johnston in his paper ‘Creating a growth mindset’.