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Making creativity and innovation happen
Making creativity and innovation happen

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4.3 The importance of changing mindsets

The key to working effectively with both failure and constraints is your mindset.

Changing mindsets is a critical challenge when seeking to enhance awareness, understanding and acceptance of failure – both individually and within organisations. Living life – whether personally or within an organisation – too cautiously can lead to failure by default. Changing mindsets is key to overcoming this and dealing effectively with failure in order to support greater learning, creativity and innovation in organisations.

In their article, Changing Mindsets in Organisations, One Brain at a Time, Knell and O’Mara (2017) explore the way that growth mindsets – a concept first developed by American psychologist Carol Dweck (2017) – can help both individuals and organisations deal with challenges and adversity more effectively:

Your mind-set is the characteristic way you face challenges and adversity: as opportunities to learn and grow, even from failure (a ‘growth’ or ‘incremental’ mind-set), or by retreating to safety, and being wary of failure (a fixed ‘mind-set’). Mind-sets manifest themselves in how you talk to yourself (‘I can’t do that, because…’ or ‘I’d like to try that, because…’), and in your behaviour (going forward to the challenge, with a determination to learn), or avoiding the challenge because of fears about the stigma of failure. Mind-sets manifest themselves in underlying changes in brain function: growth mind-sets have a brain signature which reflects greater use of all the brain’s resources, relative to the fixed mindset.

(Knell and O’Mara, 2017, p.10)

Your mindset – and specifically a growth mindset – is consequently of critical importance when approaching working with failure. Given that both failure and constraints are an inevitable part of life, the real challenge lies not in avoiding them but in working with them to ensure the best possible outcome. Key to these is the development of what American psychologist, Carol Dweck, called a growth mindset. Thinking a little differently may make a lot of difference to your creative potential.

Box 2 The paradox of choice

When it comes to creativity and innovation the interplay between choice and constraints is quite subtle yet very important. In this podcast, Laurence Knell of the Open University discusses the Paradox of Choice and the way in which constraints can guide and support our creativity and innovative thinking.

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Audio 1 The paradox of choice – failure and constraints
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In the next session we will consider how you can improve your problem solving and critical thinking skills.