Growth mindset the Spotify way

What we do to lift our people into the growth mindset

Looking at what makes people perform in a sustainable way, we realized that the ability to enhance learning and innovation is of essence. Learning new things, innovating and having fun while we do it, is what makes us a successful company. Being an industry leader in our field requires constant innovation and pioneer thinking. So how do we foster that kind of culture?

We needed to look closer on how to create an even better learning environment. We want our people to grow to make the company grow, so how do we do that? How do we encourage learning and a mindset that allows new thinking and innovation to happen?  

This led us into Carol Dweck’s decades of research* on achievement and success. What is it that makes people succeed and how can we foster success? How we perceive ourselves, our own personality is something that determines how we will tackle change, challenges and learning. Dweck could see from her research that there are two mindsets around our personality that we manifest at a young age. Depending on what mindset we have manifested a great deal of our behavior is determined. Also how we relate to success and failure  both professionally and personally – and ultimately our capacity for happiness!

A person having a “fixed”  mindset has a feeling that intelligence is something static. This is how smart I am, and I will remain this way. I am good at certain things and bad at others – this is just how it is. This is a very common mindset springing out of the way we have  been brought up and being appraised by others.

The problem with this mindset is that when we think our intelligence is fixed, there is no much use in trying to get better is there? Also being “smart” makes me want to always look smart, I try to avoid challenges, ignore criticism or take it personally instead of seeing it as a tool to develop. This mindset leads to a fear of failing, less creativity and more staying on the safe side.

A person having a “growth” mindset on the other hand, believes he/she can get better with practice. With this mindset a person has the power of believing that improving is always possible!  That turns challenges into development opportunities instead of threats and allows a person to  embrace challenge, learn from criticism, see effort as a way to mastery and dare to fail – which promotes creativity.  

It’s not a matter of anyone being able to become anything they want, but it means that everyone can develop to their full potential – whatever that is, by putting in the passion, hard work and training. This is also not a matter of either/or. Everyone moves between the two mindsets, so it’s all about being aware, and trying to stay more on the growth side of things.  

Developing and having a ‘growth mindset’ is crucial for us as a company as we can never stop taking risks and avoid all failure. We need to dare and to try out new things and experiment. We also need to learn from it and move on.

This is how we foster growth mindsets at Spotify

  • The basics: Growth Mindset training is available to everyone. All employees are reminded and encouraged to take it.
  • We put more focus on effort and learning than on being smart and safe.  
  • We work hard to make sure we have an environment where it’s safe to fail. This is a tough one, but essential. If you are going to dare to learn to fly, you need to know that someone will catch you if you fall. So while we still try to avoid failure, we are open about it when it happens.
  • We set examples. Our CEO likes to include some of his own failures, and what he learned from them, in his welcome speech to new employees. We encourage employees on all levels to own failure, learn from it, move on and grow.

*Dweck, Carol S. 2006. Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Random House