Have you ever heard of a fixed mindset? According to Paradigm founder Joelle Emerson and partner Carissa Romero, the tech world’s obsession with fixed-minded geniuses may be the reason for a lack of diversity in the industry. According to their Techcrunch article, a fixed mindset is the “belief that intelligence, talents and abilities are fixed traits.” The two writers believe tech should focus more on recruiting growth mindset individuals, or those that believe in a person’s ability to grow and develop.
While they give many examples on the traits of a fixed minded employee, I want to highlight one very real example:
“In one study, participants observed an employee performing poorly, and they were asked to rate that performance. Participants with a fixed mindset and a growth mindset both rated the employee’s performance equally low. But when they later observed that same employee performing well, fixed mindset participants rated the employee lower relative to their true performance, while growth mindset participants accurately observed the employee’s improvement.”
This is a very interesting example. In a prior article I spoke about the movie Gattaca and how the main character found it hard to gain entrance into a premier career due to his background. Perception is reality as they say, and if an employee, or more specifically your boss or interviewer feels you do not meet certain personal criteria, then you will fall victim to uncontrolable circumstances no matter how well you do. It’s a hard thing to describe unless it has happened to you in a job or interview. I can speak from authority on this as it has happened to me in the past. What people don’t understand is, if someone doesn’t think you’re fit for a job or has a low opinion of you, there’s next to nothing you can do about this, no matter how much improvement you make. In the end we all make mistakes, and it only takes one or two for your boss or employee to use it against you to cost you your title or job.
I believe this is the bulk of a lack of diversity. Mixed with unconscious bias, the fixed-mindset creates preconceived notions about success and awards them according to minimal past experiences. When striving for success little thought goes into the growth from past performances but instead concentrates on known variables. While in some cases this is a great formula for success, in other cases it is not. Essentially the authors are merely asking corporations to foster growth for all employees and reward people not only for genius level intellect and success, but also for improvement and growth. Otherwise you run the risk of people thinking to themselves “why am I doing this? I’m getting better at my job but no one cares.”
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