I've always been curious as to why new innovation and entrepreneurship tend to rise from the U.S. and lag in Asian countries like Taiwan, China and Singapore, where they consistently rank much higher in math and other academic performances. The lack of leadership in K-12 education on a global scale has not hindered the U.S. from being the center of technological breakthroughs and new discoveries. Reading Carol Dweck's book, Mindset, has led me to believe that perhaps it has much to do with the type of mindset a culture breeds. Asian culture, particularly Chinese speaking countries, tend to cultivate fixed mindsets. People who think with a fixed mindset believe we are born with certain fixed traits, we're either a genius or not. They let failures define potentials and often judge one's ability base on intelligence shown during a moment in time.
In the Chinese culture, kids are often evaluated and praised for their smarts and how quick one can find answers to problems. This keeps children from dreaming big as they are discouraged from "wasting time" reaching for the impossible. I think it's not a coincidence that under that kind of environment, the founders of leading corporations often come from the disadvantaged. They were less afraid to risk and "lose face." Although the tendency to label children are common even in the U.S.; i.e. determining giftedness of kids using test scores, it's not as prevalent and ingrained in the Western society as one would experience in the East.
Fixed mindset seems to also correspond with the degree of superstition one holds. Part religious, many people in the Chinese culture believe that fate is determined at birth. From naming your child to marriage decisions, fortune tellers can play a big part in the process. Instead of trusting one's own intuition, many look to guru's to make decisions for them. It's not that I don't believe in the possibility of the supernatural but I think what is dangerous is the mindset that comes with believing in fate. The idea that we have no power to change course when faced with difficulties is what sets apart those who give up from those who persevere. Even if psychics can predict the future, the "adjacent possible" has shown us that at any given time, our next move can alter the choices we face and hence, change the course of life.
I think the rise of successful entrepreneurs like Jack Ma, has started to shift mindsets among the new generation. Stories of his humble beginning as a working class English teacher and perseverance through countless rejections (including 10 from Harvard) are what the culture needs to break the generations of fixed beliefs that people have embraced.
All of us have the capacity to switch between growth and fixed mindset at anytime. It is a decision we make in the midst of an obstacle. Even someone who frequently thinks with a growth mindset can fall into a fixed mindset trap. For example, reacting on fear or a trauma from past experience. To avoid the trap, take more courage and be mindful of your intentions. Carol's research has shown that organizations with a growth mindset are more successful in performance and culture. When faced with difficulties, the leaders who lead with humility and work as a team are ultimately the ones who can turn the ship around, long run. They're never the lone wolf because their positive outlook and "we versus me" attitude will always earn them the trust and support they need to succeed.