🚀#GrowthSnacks: Practice your Growth Mindset and Continous Learning In Professional Communities

This growth snack discusses how online professional communities facilitate (and thrive on) activities that encourage practicing the growth mindset and continuous learning.

From collaborating on exploring uncharted territories to group discussions with many pathways and opinions, to knowledge and experience sharing — it’s all in there.

I wrote it to inspire community managers and professionals to create or find a community that cultivates growth mindset practices. A place that is a living workshop, studio, masterclass, and even playground — where members can contribute, interact and grow on a daily basis.

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How It All Began…

During 2019–2020, I gradually returned to the software industry after relocating to the US, where I spent the first couple of years helping a Duke University team of bright engineers sponsored by the Gates Foundation — to commercialize their hard tech systems.

Besides consuming an endless amount of audiobooks and podcasts during my commute to the Duke’s Science Drive parking garage and the long walks to the Hudson Hall — the Pratt School of Engineering building, it was a time when I started being more active in online professional communities.

I first encountered Prof. Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset concept when I watched her Ted talk. Years later, during the first couple of months of the pandemic, I picked up the audiobook, while taking the stroller (and kids) on endless walks around our neighborhood, creeks, and forests during the lockdown.

There couldn’t be a better time for me to indulge in the book’s concepts, as a parent to a 1 and 3-year-old. It provided a fresh outlook on how we can raise them to be resilient, curious, unafraid of making mistakes, and embrace failure as the glorified badge for trying — using each one as an opportunity to learn.

From a professional standpoint, as a B2C Go-To-Market (GTM) and strategy professional, making her first steps in the SaaS world — I needed to bridge some gaps quickly, and rely on the applicable skills and experience I already had.

Professional communities presented me with a special opportunity to accelerate, regulate and systematize my learning process. In these communities, I could ask fellow members for their recommendations for tools, frameworks, professional resources and share my latest findings or professional existential questions. I could also help others with their questions or struggle.

Over the last year and a half, I have been an active member of several professional communities — around Product, Product Marketing, and Growth (Global: Reforge, Hacking Growth, RocketBlocks | TLV: PMM, Growth, Marketing, Product).

As a result, I recently joined the management team of the largest professional Growth community in Israel. I pursued this opportunity so I can help shape the professional discourse around things that I am interested in and care about deeply (PLG, the art, and science of activation, inclusiveness, lifelong learning, working parents, etc.).

At the same time, I wanted to contribute to creating a welcoming and supporting environment of continuous learning, that is amplified by community members sharing their questions, failures, and findings publicly, on a regular basis — inviting everyone around them to help out, learn and participate.

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Make Mistakes and Fail — Publicly 😱

Dr. Jo Boaler of Stanford University opens her book “Mathematical Mindsets” (inspired by the work of Dr. Dweck), with a chapter called “The Power of Mistakes and Struggle”. At the beginning of this chapter, she introduces a study by psychologist Jason Moser, who found that the brain shows increased electrical activity when it experiences conflict between a correct response and an error (whether the people making the mistake are aware of it or not).

The best explanation researchers have for this at the moment — is that this seems to be “at a time of struggle; the brain is challenged, and this is the time when the brain grows the most.”

The second important finding of this study was that “the brain activity was greater following mistakes for individuals with a growth mindset versus individuals of a fixed mindset.”

This means, that if we believe that we can learn and that mistakes are valuable — our brains grow to a greater extent when we make a mistake.

A couple of months ago, as I was getting ready for bed, I scrolled through my Linkedin feed one last time and noticed this post.

It immediately fired up my brain with the conversation Josh Constine had with the Clubhouse founders (audio app) when they celebrated 1 year to their soft launch. I remembered how they discussed in detail their disappointment in not being able to take control of the app’s narrative in the context of inclusiveness vs. exclusiveness. I thought that would be a nice nugget to share with the community and wonder out loud how they intend to control the narrative now.

I read the blog post quickly and didn’t let the low engagement numbers, the weird paragraph about the “vision of team collaboration”, or weird branding dissonance in the video stop me (unfortunately). I added a paragraph with the story and shared it within a few minutes, not noticing — the original post is about a different app that had to change its name — due to the audio app’s success, probably.

Oops.

I woke up to some Friday afternoon comments (TLV time), sharing my bewilderment with this PR move, and some friends telling me — I got the wrong app there — and it’s all mixed up :) Thanks, Orit Levy and Yair Kivaiko for drawing my attention to this. I edited the post and eventually removed it to avoid any further confusion. Too bad I didn’t take a screenshot of that to share here :)

“Even in the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”

With a respectful and friendly discourse — this is not a big deal. The community still gets to enjoy a lot of valid information and thought leadership shared by members, and provide healthy and constructive criticism/input/feedback or additional info where needed, and without discouraging the members who shared the post.

The visibility of mistakes, failures, and the fact that even experts must keep learning to stay ahead of the curve (it’s not just a fixed trait or talent — where you either have it or you don’t) — normalizes effort, struggle, and mistakes among the community members. It’s part of learning, it’s part of growing — and they can practice it on a daily basis.

The Power of Engaging Questions in the Process of Learning 🤔

Dweck writes about the power of engaging questions in the process of learning — which invite participants to come up with their own pathways and are far more interesting and impactful in the learning process, than closed ones.

When it comes to professional communities on social platforms, engagement is king. The more engaging a piece of content is, the more admins and platform algorithms will promote it and try to reproduce it. I recently noticed Facebook started to automatically “rebrand” community posts as questions.

Although the visual indication of this categorization is rather new, I’m sure it’s something the algorithm has been taking into consideration for a long time now.

When you think about it, questions are the epitome of struggle. They are the manifestation of the individual’s effort to proactively pursue an answer or a solution to their challenge — the effort of investigating and learning. By sharing your challenges and asking for advice or joining discussions in a professional community — you help your mind grow, one question or comment at a time.

As I shared my questions, challenges, and learnings with fellow Growth, Marketing, and Product practitioners this year, and answered questions based on my experience — I have been DMed by numerous members. Some asked about landing their first job in the PM or PMM space, some asked about how I keep on learning and sharpening my skills. Some also asked me, why I am so active in some local TLV communities if I work in the US.

The truth is, this is simply how I learn and grow best. By contemplating many questions and investigating different paths every day — even if they are not mine - I practice my strategic thinking and learn or experiment with new tactics. When I am on the receiving end of a community discussions — I get a rather instant, comprehensive, and rich response, that saves me a ton of time and research and helps me connect with like-minded people I can collaborate with in the future.

It’s also super fun for me :) Which is a good segway to talk about establishing your continuous learning habits — by following one of James Clear’s Atomic Habits rules of “Make it satisfying.”

Make a Habit of Making an Effort — Together 💪

“Effort is what ignites ability and turns it into accomplishment.” (Dweck, Mindset)

According to Dr. Dweck, we are so terrified of making an effort because of the fixed mindset myths where geniuses are not supposed to need it, so if we do need it, it casts a shadow on our ability. It also robs us of all our excuses. Without effort we can say — “If I have actually tried, I could have <fill in the blank>.”

Being active in a professional community is an easy and convenient way to constantly challenge your understanding and thinking through engaging in discussions or answering questions on a regular basis. Seeing other active community members’ learning and investigation methodologies and processes, can inspire others to do so, affirm the identity of those who continuously do it, while normalizing this behavior.

“One of the most effective things you can do to build a habit is to join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior. New habits seem achievable when you see others doing them every day…surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself — and you will rise together” — James Clear, Atomic Habits

Moreover, In her book Mathematical Mindsets, Dr. Boaler talks about the importance of providing a nurturing and encouraging social learning environment to develop students’ growth mindsets and capabilities.

“Group and whole-class discussions are really important. Not only are they the greatest aid to understanding — as students rarely understand ideas without talking through them — and not only do they enliven the subject and engage students, but they teach students to reason and to critique each other’s reasoning — both of which are central in today’s high-tech workplaces.”

Future-Proof Your Career by Building Effective Learning Habits

In today’s business environment, rapid technological innovation leads to the creation of new markets, business opportunities, professions, growth frameworks, and tools on a regular basis.

Engineering, Product, Marketing and Growth professionals need to learn how to continuously learn — so they can continue to deliver results, in an ever-so-crowded and dynamic competitive landscape.

We all need to train the muscle of continuous learning and find what works for us best. From experimenting on the job or confiding with mentors, to participating in advanced professional training or webinars, reading professional books, joining professional communities, or finding some combination of these.

Today’s professionals rely on self-learning to advance and future-proof their careers. This means that we need to make a continuous effort to learn and improve — and as I discussed above — just by making this effort, we can actually grow our skills and capabilities, a little bit each time.

Moreover, the benefit of making this effort in professional communities rather than by ourselves, is that at the same time, they help strengthen skills 1 and 3 on table 3.2 (above).

Professional communities are our “Professional Gyms” or “Dōjōs”, if you will. Where we come in daily or weekly, to practice, and reinforce our identity as practitioners — time and time again. Just like the famous Zen Master Dogen said about the practice of Zazen (mediation) — “[practice] is not different than awakening”.By this, he meant that the practice itself and the realization of the goal towards which you practice — are one and the same, and are manifested within this single act.

Therefore, by actively participating in professional communities regularly — we do not only practice - but also realize personal and professional growth.

Until next time,
S. 🌸

Bonus: How do I reconcile between The Gallup Strengths Framework and The Growth Mindset Concept?

A short while after I published the Gallup Strengths Framework post, a colleague challenged me by referring to the growth mindset concept — and asking how do these two align.

“If people can create new synapses in their brain by making an effort, why should they not pursue their dreams or passions — whatever they are, even if they are not currently their top strengths or “talents”, but they can work on developing them?”

I have a few thoughts on the matter and would be more than glad to hear yours.

To start, I think that the Strength Framework helps individuals understand and get visibility into their current baseline. To use the Gallup language — it shows them where they have already formed their strongest synapses to date.

As for the amount of progress or growth that is possible, I think this quote from Dweck’s book, nails it —

“The growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be cultivated. But it doesn’t tell you how much change is possible or how long change will take. And it doesn’t mean that everything, like preferences or values, can be changed.”

At the same time, Dweck emphasizes the importance of hard work to one’s success in cultivating their abilities (regardless of so-called “talents”):

“…This book shows people they have a choice by spelling out the two mindsets and the worlds they create. The point is that people can choose which world they want to inhabit. The fixed mindset creates the feeling that you can really know the permanent truth about yourself…you will surely succeed in such and such because you do have a talent.

It’s just as important to be aware of the drawbacks of this mindset. You may be robbing yourself of an opportunity by underestimating your talent in the first area. Or you may be underestimating your chances of success in the second area by assuming that your talent alone will get you there.”

I think that the two frameworks can complete each other in the context of proactively planning and building your career. I mean it in the sense that you can look for roles and professions where you can capitalize on and enjoy your existing strongest synapses, but be open to mitigating gaps or growing in new directions by cultivating additional ones — through commitment and hard work, wherever your career opportunities or heart take you.

👩‍💻 A Tech Lover👷 Product Builder 📈 Growth & Product Marketing Specialist ‍🎓 An Infinite Learner