Want to Innovate? Develop and Support a Growth Mindset of Interest
Believing whether interests can be developed or are inherent may impact an individual’s ability to address and solve the complex challenges of our VUCA world. Today’s problems often require people to draw from different disciplines to come up with effective solutions. According to new research from Yale-NUS College, if someone has a “growth mindset of interest” — a belief that interests can be developed and cultivated — they are more likely to generate innovative ideas that link their area of interest to one seemingly outside of it.
Paul A. O’Keefe, lead researcher and assistant professor of psychology at Yale-NUS College, uses the example of how smartphones are designed and created to explain this concept.
“You not only need computer science and engineering knowledge, but also an understanding of psychology and visual design to create a product that is useful and resonates with the user.”
This research has implications for both organizations and individuals.
“When organizations hire people with a growth mindset, or promote it among their employees, those employees may be more likely to devise innovative ideas that bridge multiple areas of knowledge to achieve better solutions.”
With O’Keefe’s ideas in mind, organizations should create an environment that promotes the idea that interests can be developed. They should also offer employees opportunities for exploration and growth. Creating a coaching culture and offering coaching to employees are two effective ways to support growth mindsets as well as exploration of new concepts and ideas.
Following that mindset, individuals should seek opportunities to expand their areas of knowledge. As unemployment continues to grow due to automation, artificial intelligence and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, people who can bridge different disciplines will no doubt be a more attractive hire and asset to organizations than those who have a traditional, one-discipline approach to the way they work. O’Keefe offers the example of an engineer. An engineer could stick to just technical roles, or they could develop an interest in marketing and gain skills to join a sales team at an engineering firm.
So, what can coaches do support the clients and organizations they work with in becoming more innovative?
When coaching individuals, you could explore how expanding knowledge outside of a client’s area of expertise might impact whatever challenges they are seeking to address. Then, support them if they do decide to expand their areas of knowledge.
If you coach within an organization, you may think of additional ways you or your organization could help support employees’ knowledge and development in additional areas of interest. Then, how can you help them connect their new learnings back to their work?
Most importantly, support anyone who shows an interest in expanding their interests.
“Understanding that interests can develop is the first step,” O’Keefe explains. “It takes time and conducive environments to develop and reinforce that mindset. Ultimately, that may spark out-of-the-box thinking and game-changing innovations.”