THE TELL TALE SIGN OF A GROWTH MINDSET

         Is it possible to judge ability solely by the way people describe the way they practice?

Beginners and experts have a very different view of feedback. Beginners focus on positive reinforcing feedback because it facilitates keeping them committed to the task. Experts, on the other hand, focus on something completely different. They focus on negative feedback because they are not interested in a “pat on the back.” Experts seek negative feedback because they are interested in results and progress towards results.

This is a tell tale sign of a Growth Mindset because it is nearly impossible for someone to become an expert without having a Growth Mindset. Becoming an expert is truly about deliberate practice. Experts practice differently than others. They know they have the ability to fix what is wrong and then adjust without allowing themselves to divert blame elsewhere.

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Barry Zimmerman, a professor of psychology at City University of New York, has always been fascinated by the kind of learning that goes on when people observe, judge and strategize their own performance.  Basically, when people coach themselves.  His interest in this type of learning, known as self regulation, moved him to conduct an experiment to answer the question, “Is it possible to judge ability solely by the way people describe the way they practice?”[i]

Question: Is it possible to judge ability solely by the way people describe the way they practice?

  • The chosen skill to observe and test was the volleyball serve
  • Experimenters gathered volleyball players of all levels and asked them how they approached the serve – goals, planning, strategy, etc, – twelve measures in all.
  • They then predicted who would be the best at that skill and then had them execute the serve to test the accuracy of their predictions.
  • Result: “90% of the variation in skill could be accounted for by the player’s answers.”

“Our predictions were extremely accurate,” Zimmerman said.

“This showed that experts practice differently and far more strategically. When they fail, they don’t blame it on luck or themselves. They have a strategy they can fix.”[ii]

In 2011, the Journal of Consumer Research conducted 5 studies in which people were either: novices, experts, or progressing from novice to expert. “We predict an increase in negative feedback as people gain expertise, because the meaning people derive from feedback changes such that negative feedback increases the motivation to adhere to a goal.”[iii] Their findings were confirmed. The difference in they type of feedback that was sought derives from the value placed on the goals. In novices, the positive feedback represents that concept that “their goals are valuable (commitment).”[iv] However, experts are past this inflection point.

Experts view the goals as valuable and are therefore “experts infer from feedback whether their pace of pursuing already valuable goals is sufficient (progress). As a consequence … novices are more likely than experts to seek positive feedback on their strengths and alter their behaviors and attitudes when they get such feedback, whereas experts are more likely than novices to seek negative feedback on their weaknesses and alter their behaviors and attitudes when they get this feedback.”[v]


If you think a Growth Mindset is important than you might want to check out my book because it has a whole chapter on how to practice better.

[i] Horne, A. (2015, January 1). The Talent Code: A review for coaches. Retrieved April 2, 2015, from http://www.bsmpg.com/the-talent-code-a-review-for-coaches/

[ii] Coyle, D. (2009). The talent code: Greatness isn’t born : It’s grown, here’s how (p. 86). New York: Bantam Books.

[iii] Finkelstein, S., & Fishbach, A. (2011). Tell Me What I Did Wrong: Experts Seek and Respond to Negative Feedback. Journal of Consumer Research, 39, 22-38.

[iv] Finkelstein, S., & Fishbach, A. (2011). Tell Me What I Did Wrong: Experts Seek and Respond to Negative Feedback. Journal of Consumer Research, 39, 22-38.

[v] Finkelstein, S., & Fishbach, A. (2011). Tell Me What I Did Wrong: Experts Seek and Respond to Negative Feedback. Journal of Consumer Research, 39, 22-38.

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