Guy Kawasaki's blog talks about the effort effect. Here's an extract:
If you manage any people or if you are a parent (which is a form of managing people), drop everything and read The Effort Effect. This is an article about Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck. It examines her thirty-year study of why some some people excel and others don't. (Hint: the answer is not "God-given talent.")
The article postulates that people have two kinds of mindsets: growth or fixed. People with the growth mindset view life as a series of challenges and opportunities for improving. People with a fixed mindset believe that they are "set" as either good or bad. The issue is that the good ones believe they don't have to work hard, and the bad ones believe that working hard won't change anything.
She recently released a book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. I have not yet read it, but I ordered it as soon as I read this article. I can't imagine not liking it.
To provide a further taste of the article and her work, here is a sidebar from the article called "What Do We Tell the Kids?" I took the liberty of adding [employee] to show the relevance of this article to business.
"You have a bright child [employee], and you want her to succeed. You should tell her how smart she is, right?
That's what 85 percent of the parents Dweck surveyed said. Her research on fifth graders shows otherwise. Labels, even though positive, can be harmful. They may instil a fixed mind-set and all the baggage that goes with it, from performance anxiety to a tendency to give up quickly. Well-meaning words can sap children's [employee's] motivation and enjoyment of learning and undermine their performance. While Dweck's study focused on intelligence praise, she says her conclusions hold true for all talents and abilities."There are a lot of things to ponder, both in Dweck's original and Kawasaki's piece:
- The update on learned helplessness and attribution theory is helpful. We almost all have areas where we believe we can't improve. That stunts growth and achievement. It also pisses everybody else off. In this office we have one person who "can't understand computers", one who "isn't clever enough to contribute to the discussion", one who "can't tidy up, communicate or abide meetings", and so on.
- Explaining why it isn't always helpful to tell your child or colleague that they're brilliant is a pure relief. I've always hated this kind of mechanical reinforcement and hated the fact that it probably works. I'm delighted that it doesn't.
- The idea that some people, in some areas, are more concerned with demonstrating ability than improving it (and vice versa) is crucial to improving organizational learning.
- Emerging from the last point, the awareness that putting a lot of people who know they're very good into a football team, board of directors or project team is a potentially dangerous thing to do, is also helpful.