leanhealthcare_mindsetWhen I was a practicing psychologist, people often brought their children to me for intelligence testing. Ostensibly, they said they wanted their children to be in the “right” program at school.  Of course they were talking about the “gifted” program.  Some parents, sadly and egoistically, wanted to be able to tell others they had a “gifted” child, not realizing that all children are gifted and that there are many kinds of gifts. I never liked the fact that this testing seemed to assume intelligence was a static quality. I never believed that was true and have since been vindicated by the research of Carol Dweck of Stanford University, outlined in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

In Lean Healthcare, continual improvement is dependent upon the ability of an organization to seek feedback, admit and identify weaknesses openly, experiment constantly, learn rapidly and be relentless at pursuing excellence, even elegance.  Dweck states there are two mindsets, one, which is conducive to learning, and another, which is not:

Fixed Mindset assumes intelligence is static. This leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges, get defensive or give up easily, see effort as fruitless (one either has it or not), ignore useful negative feedback, and feel threatened by the success of others.  As a result, people with this mindset may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential. Some will suffer from an impostor syndrome, which manifests as, “I am not competent enough to do what is expected, but am pretty good at creating the illusion I am competent and live in fear I will be found out.”

Growth Mindset assumes intelligence can be developed. This leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as a path to mastery, learn from criticism, and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. As a result, people with this mindset reach ever-higher levels of achievement. They are not afraid to say, “I don’t know but I will find out.” Being able to say this honestly frees up all the energy used to hide,  “fake it” and other defensive strategies used by those of the fixed mindset.   This energy can then be used for learning.  When Deming talked about joy in learning and joy in work, I believe he was talking about this mindset.

Which mindset describes your organization? Which mindset describes you?


HowellTerryRSToday’s blog was written by Terry Howell, Ed.D., senior principal with HPP.

Terry has 30 years of healthcare leadership experience with a focus on performance improvement, patient experience, quality improvement, and strategic planning.  Previously, he served as chief quality officer at a large academic medical center in Minneapolis where he was responsible for oversight and coordination of performance improvement, patient experience, clinical risk, safety, accreditation and organization-wide planning.

Terry received a Doctorate of Education degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Tennessee followed by post-doctoral work in Organizational Development.  He served on the faculty of the Institute of Healthcare Improvement, the Healthcare Quality Improvement National Demonstration Project and has taught graduate courses in Tulane University’s International Medical Management program.

Image by Freepik

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