Lifelong learning as the key to developing creative potential?

Stanford | Why can some people use their creativity in the workplace while others fail? Psychologist Carol Dweck has been asking herself this question for decades and concluded in her book „Mindset. Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential“, published in 2017, that the answer lies in the attitude and conviction employees have towards intelligence and talent. Those who assume that they were born as natural talents would find it harder to develop creativity and create innovation at work and in everyday life than those who assume that their abilities can expand beyond life.

Employees who are convinced that they are naturally talented will strive to look smart and avoid mistakes when working, Dweck continues. The situation is quite different for those who do not see themselves as natural talents: They would intensively deal with their own mistakes in order to learn from them. People with an intense urge for development tend, according to Dweck, to demonstrate the endurance and resilience needed to transform setbacks into future successes. Thus, lifelong learning is the key to developing the creative potential of employees, Dweck concludes. This attitude can also be learned by natural talents at any time, but it is associated with effort, since biographically speaking, such attitudes are formed very early on. Dweck does not mention one thing explicitly, but it is also relevant in this context: eLearning is particularly suitable for promoting lifelong learning because large workforces can be trained at low cost.

In recruiting, the recruitment of “natural talents” with excellent degrees from top universities continues to play a decisive role. However, managers are now increasingly hiring graduates who do not have this background, but have already proven that they are extremely capable of learning and have great ambitions for their job. Teamwork with these types of people is also much easier and more efficient, says Dweck. Nevertheless, she pleads for hiring people who are extremely capable of learning and developing as well as people who have a great talent right from the start. A balanced mix is the optimum.

Dweck names several high-caliber executives who are already methodically making use of their findings. In her opinion, this includes John F. Welch of General Electric, who considers teamwork to be more important than individual work results. Or Anne M. Mulcahy from Xerox, who considers the teaching of morality as a working basis to be important. And that should be the exciting thing about developing potential: To see how theoretical models unfold their power in practice.

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