Linda rising - the power of an agile mindset

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I‘ve wondered for some time whether much of Agile’s success was the result of the placebo effect, that is, good things happened because we believed they would.

The placebo effect is a startling reminder of the power our minds have over our perceived reality. Now cognitive scientists tell us that this is only a small part of what our minds can do.

Research has identified what I like to call «an agile mindset», an attitude that equates failure and problems with opportunities for learning, a belief that we can all improve over time, that our abilities are not fixed but evolve with effort.

What’s surprising about this research is the impact of an agile mindset on creativity and innovation, estimation, and collaboration in and out of the workplace.

I’ll relate what’s known about this mindset and share some practical suggestions that can help all of us become even more agile.

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  • Linda ---- Great integration of agility and the growth mindset ---- And, you nailed it well with Enron and Southwest ---- For years, those two companies have seemed to me to be the poster child examples of fixed and growth mindset cultures ---- Best wishes from SMU ---- Don
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Linda rising - the power of an agile mindset

  1. 1. The Power of an Agile Mindset Linda Rising linda@lindarising.org www.lindarising.org
  2. 2. Disclaimer: This provocative presentation is ideally thebeginning of a conversation. It wont take long for meto tell you everything I know about cognitivepsychology, although I have been reading in the areafor several years now. Im an amateur who hassufficient interest in weird topics and a strange way ofconnecting ideas that might or might not be of interestto you. Thank you for your tolerance and understandingof my meanderings and I hope you learn a little thatmight help you in your life.This is not an “academic” presentation, but thoseinterested in more information are invited to ask me forreferences for any part of this talk and I will be happyto make them available.
  3. 3. Do you mostly agree or mostly disagree with the followingIntelligence is something very basic that you really cant change much. You’re born with it or not. Yes, you can learn new things, but you cant really change how intelligent you are.No matter how intelligent you are, you can always get better, sometimes you can improve a lot.Substitute any ability or talent for “intelligence.”
  4. 4. Interesting experimentsPhase I:Students were given a very easy set of questionsThen they were categorized into “effort” or “fixed” groups (about 50-50)
  5. 5. Phase IIAll students allowed to choose between: (1) a more difficult test (where they would learn a lot) or (2) another easy test (similar to Phase I)Most (~90%) “effort” kids chose (1)Most (~80%) “fixed” kids chose (2)
  6. 6. Phase IIIVery difficult exam given to both groups“Effort” kids worked hard, enjoyed the challenge“Fixed” kids easily discouraged
  7. 7. Phase IVAll students allowed to choose between: (1) seeing exams of those who did better or (2) exams of those who did worse“Effort” kids chose (1)“Fixed” kids chose (2)
  8. 8. Phase VAll students given easy test (similar to Phase I)“Effort” kids improved (by ~30%)“Fixed” kids’ were worse (by ~20%)
  9. 9. Phase VIAll students asked to give advice to other students and include their scores“Effort” kids: Lots of advice and encouragement.“Fixed” kids: Very little or no advice and ~40% lied about their scores
  10. 10. Mindset – Carol Dweck
  11. 11. Self-Theories – Carol Dweck
  12. 12. PR on the webNew Yorker – “The Talent Myth,” gladwell.comNew York Magazine – “How not to talk to your kids,” Po BronsonTIME magazine – “How to help them succeed”
  13. 13. Two mindsets: Fixed & AgileResearch shows that mindset:Determines goalsReactions to failureBelief about effort and strategiesAttitudes toward others’ successes
  14. 14. Two mindsets Fixed vs. AgileAbility – static, like height Ability – can grow, like muscleGoal - look good Goal - to learnChallenge - avoid Challenge - embraceFailure - defines your identity Failure – provides informationEffort - for those with no Effort - path to mastery talentReaction to challenge - Reaction to challenge – helplessness resilience
  15. 15. Mindsets in an MRI
  16. 16. Belief about yourself affects belief about othersThose with a fixed mindset are quick to judge others based on little information and quick to stereotypeThose with an agile mindset don’t ignore information about others but are less negative/positive
  17. 17. Bright little girls
  18. 18. Bright little boys
  19. 19. Organizations have a mindsetAmy Edmondson, Harvard Business School, studied how hospitals implemented a new technique for open-heart surgery.Those who were successful saw a steep learning curve and realized it would be challenging, but worth it for quicker, easier patient.Those who were not successful saw the change as “cool” new technology, a marketing opportunity, a way to show other hospitals that they “had it.”
  20. 20. Smartest guys in the room
  21. 21. Enron’s fixed mindsetIdentify and hire “the best talent”Then continuously and ruthlessly grade, sort, fire, and promote – a process called “rank and yank”
  22. 22. We are a company of people, notplanes. That is what distinguishes us from other airlines.
  23. 23. The Southwest CultureHire for attitudeEstablish a culture of community, trust, and the “Southwest spirit”Then provide learning opportunities and continually grow peopleSouthwest seems to have an “agile” mindset
  24. 24. Managers have a mindset“Keen to Help? Managers’ implicit person theories and their subsequent employee coaching,” Peter Heslin, Don Vandewalle, Gary Latham, Personnel Psych., 2006.“Pygmalion in Management,” J. Sterling Livingston, Sept/Oct 1988 Harvard Business Review.
  25. 25. The good news is…Mindset is not “fixed”We encourage one or the other in each otherWe develop one or the other in our childrenResearch has shown that small experimental manipulations, e.g. feedback or reading an article can produce one or the other
  26. 26. You mean I don’t have to be stupid?
  27. 27. Effort is good!Praise effort, strategies, processAsk about the workInstead of ignoring failure, teach others that it’s a way to learn and improve
  28. 28. Agile software developmentFail early, fail often.Fail fast, learn constantly.Failure *IS* an option.Without failure how can learning happen?“Make mistakes faster.” Rich Sheridan, CEO, Menlo Innovations“Perfect is a verb.” Kent Beck“Those that fail fastest grow strongest.” Roy Singham, Founder and Chair, Thoughtworks
  29. 29. Better estimations!Typically we tend to overestimate our performance, even in the face of data from previous deliveries. Research shows that those with a fixed mindset are more prone to this tendency than agile thinkers.
  30. 30. Agile is agileThe agile mindset believes that we are *ALL* a work in progress.The agile software development process isn’t fixed. It continues to change and grow as we learn more about it. If we are lucky, this will never end because it will never be perfect.We will continue to improve as we age—just like me !Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Samuel Beckett, Irish poet (1906-1989) Thanks for listening!

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