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Risky Biz

Get your employees taking chances and learning from their experiences.
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This story appears in the January 2008 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
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Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck has some definite opinions when it comes to being open-minded. In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Dweck discusses why some people excel and others don't. She concludes that those who do well have a "growth" mind-set--they take chances and keep learning, even if it means failing at first--as opposed to a "fixed" mind-set, where a person avoids any prospect of failure.

You're hiring for talent, but you might end up with bright employees who don't take chances and can't accept constructive criticism or setbacks. The good news? It's possible to propel "fixed" employees toward a more growth-oriented mind-set as long as you constantly convey that your workplace is about continuous learning and trial and error. When employees fall short, praise them for trying, and allow them to talk about their struggles so that knowledge gaps aren't a source of shame. "Convey that a lot of learning is necessary to do the job well," Dweck says. "The employer is a guide and a resource, not a judge."

Ask job applicants how they feel about tasks with a high probability of failure. Their answers will speak volumes, and you're more likely to hire employees who'll help your company grow. Says Dweck, "Hire for talent and mind-set."

Edition: May 2017

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