The first question any strategic review should ask; what is the organisation’s strategic mindset?
At its basic level a mindset is a mental attitude that determines how an individual will interpret and respond to situations. Over the last ten years’ the concept of mindset has become a key focus in many areas especially education, sport, psychology and human resources. This is largely due to the work of Dr Carol Dweck and her famous book Mindset where it suggests that individuals can have one of two mindsets. A fixed mindset is where intelligence is a fixed trait and an individual’s qualities are carved in stone. A growth mindset is where intelligence is a quality than can be changed and developed.
Dweck’s concept has been also extended to organisational behaviour and organisation culture. An organisation with a fixed mindset can be characterised by one that has few individual star employees; it has lower levels of engagement and commitment; a real obsession about not failing and taking un-necessary risks; very few (if any) innovation projects; and a culture of secrets and damaging politics.
An organisation with a growth mindset is considerably more innovative, collaborative with a real commitment to learning and growing. Innovation flourishes because risks are prepared to be taken and there is an environment where challenge is encouraged. As Dweck comments
“When an entire company embraces a growth mindset their employees report feeling far more empowered and committed. They also receive far greater organisational support for collaboration and innovation”
So given that a fixed or growth mindset can be applied to an individual and an organisation, it makes sense, that it must encompass the strategy. You could speculate then that at its basic level a strategic mindset is an organisation’s mental attitude on how it interprets and responds to different competitors, different environmental challenges and different internal changes.
I believe mindset is everything and understanding the strategic mindset is critical. Consider as an example if an organisation has stalled. Revenues are not growing, expenses are creeping up, and this is due to a strong competitor. In response to this the strategic mindset could be of a fixed nature: “let’s stop innovation, it has risk and is expensive”; “let us do what we do, really well”; “lets match competitors”. This approach will be a very short term in its focus, and perhaps create a cycle that is hard to get out of as it is driven by flawed beliefs and assumptions.
A strategic mindset which is of a growth nature could be “lets increase innovation, there is opportunity”; “let’s do activities that competitors haven’t thought of”; or “lets lead the market”. There will be a focus on leadership, both internally and externally.
As you can see each strategic mindset could lead to different outcomes in both the short term, and the long term, and may even require a different type of leader.
By the way, It is very easy to assume that a growth mindset is always the right answer, especially as it has a focus on creativity, engagement and innovation (great buzz words after all). But this is not actually the case, sometimes a strategically fixed mind set could be the right answer. It all depends on capability, an organisation’s life stage and what is important to shareholders.
So when you are starting a strategic review, the strategic mindset needs to be discussed. It should be the very first question you should ask; is our strategy mindset- fixed or growth? And, also the very last question.
(And by the way, make sure your Board and shareholders have the same mindset!)
Dweck, Carol (2006), Mindset the new psychology of success, United States (order from Amazon it is a great book)