Challenging your approach to work with a growth mindset

“You know you are learning if you feel challenged.”

A quote from Mrs. the cookie lady, as seen on the back inside cover of the bimonthly American Girl magazine from the mid-90s, which also happens to be one of my childhood favorites. I was recently reminded of this during an annual marketing technology conference, Inbound, where most every speaker touched on the topic of challenging your assumptions. It’s all too easy to fall into a routine and become blind to the impact of our patterns within our workday or businesses. This can result in overlooking the notion of a growth mindset that often paves the way for new opportunities and enhanced productivity. 

Rethink how meetings are planned

Take a moment to think about the last time you booked a meeting. What were the primary decision factors about when the meeting occurred? Now, think about what you were trying to accomplish—was it analytical, process-oriented, or conceptual? Our brains operate on a spectrum, performing each task to a greater degree of success depending on the time of day. Each of our internal clocks are tuned slightly differently—about 20% of us are opposite the rest of the population. For those in the 20%, the 8-5 work schedule is particularly difficult—as the optimal work day is shifted later. Now, think back to the tools you used to plan that meeting. Did you consider the personalities involved—if they’re morning or evening people and the type of task you needed to complete at the meeting? Research presented in Daniel Pink’s latest book, When, challenges us to rethink our approach to meetings and management. 

By getting to know your team’s natural circadian clock—how they operate outside of the confines of the 8-5 workday, we can be better team managers. For instance, I previously managed someone who was a morning person, while I myself am a night owl. We quickly found the best way to collaborate was a tag-team effort, so my evening contributions could support their morning productivity. Instead of planning a one-size-fits-all meeting, try approaching your meeting as series of interactions designed for the personalities and task at hand. 

Challenge why you target the audience you do

As marketers, we place significant energy into defining the appropriate target audience and getting to know them in great detail, often looking for sales indicators to identify the group with the highest propensity to purchase. While the audience is defined as a target for a reason, stop for a moment to ponder if you really understand the reason the target is the target. Challenge yourself to think beyond the bottomline contributions the target audience has and attempt to discover the human factors that may be at play. For instance, Ellevest, an investment firm that is flipping the narrative of the standard investment target, men, to design a product that meets the financial needs of women. After years of working in the financial industry, the co-founder of of Ellevest, challenged herself with exactly this question—why were men the target audiences of investment firms? Digging deeper, women were being blamed for their lack of “interest” or participation in the industry—and why would women want to participate in receiving blame? 


Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, an online learning platform, also applies a similar to challenge to the Khan academy target audience. Although education is often seen as a basic human right, the target audience of the educational industry are often those with access to resources which often leaves a group deemed “incapable” of succeeding. Khan explained that 1,000 years ago, it is likely that humankind thought few were capable of reading or writing. Now we know most are capable of reading and writing, so why do we still have the notion of “incapable” in education? With this in mind, the Khan Academy has grown their offering and is contributing to advanced education around the globe. 

To truly uncover new opportunities, practice what Ellevest and Salman have applied by getting to know who our target audience is not—and how the underlying blockers for this/these groups can be removed.  

Redefine factors of success

Have you had a somewhat embarrassing career moment that’s refined how you approach something in the future? If not, perhaps you haven’t failed enough (or learned from your failures) suggests Journalist and author Katie Couric. In Katie’s career these embarrassing moments have often been comprised of other individuals reflecting her own biases back to her—when an interview subject challenged the fairness of a question based on gender, for example. Katie’s reaction to another embarrassing moment was the critical step we can all learn from. Instead of offense, she chose to embrace her vulnerability by analyzing, exploring, and challenging her own biases through the production of a documentary piece, Gender Revolution.  

To learn requires vulnerability, just as the act of embracing the ability to unlearn, rethink, or renew knowledge does. The process of learning and making mistakes often is discounted in our world that values age and experience. As we evaluate talent, consider metrics that extend beyond accomplishments to credit exploration, learning, and recovery. For example, since the process of learning begets mistakes, host organization forums where lessons learned can be explored in greater detail, new alternatives or approaches are explored, or new minds are brought together.

“Keep in mind never be embarrassed to be a beginner. Keep asking questions & learning, [as] being interested makes you interesting.”- Katie Couric

As an experienced professional, it can sometimes feel as though you’re stuck in a routine. It’s those moments where the lessons from the Inbound speakers can be applied. Challenge yourself to grow though rethinking, reassess, and redefine in the exact moment you find routine, and you’ll unlock hidden growth.

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