Work, as we know it, is changing rapidly. As automation and artificial intelligence is more broadly introduced into the workplace, leaders seeking to be best prepared recognise this is about ensuring the adaptability of those at work.

The Foundation of Young Australians’ New Work Smarts Report of July 2017 predicts that strategic thinking is the desired skill set for the future, encompassing critical thinking, continuous learning, effective problem solving and good interpersonal and communication skills. This is why disrupting mindsets is critical for greater productivity, creativity and collaboration.

Our mindset is the attitude or way of thinking adopted for a given situation or event. While often thought of as an individual attribute, work by Dweck and others has revealed that it is the collective mindset as influenced by the leader that determines performance.

The adaptive response is to nurture a growth-oriented mindset that operates with the belief that success comes from applied effort and a willingness to consider and explore all options to see how things can be done better.

This contrasts with the fixed or closed mindset where the belief is that intelligence is innate, ability fixed and failure not tolerated. Studies have demonstrated a difference in the neural processing of events depending on which mindset is being applied.

Shifting mindsets can be tricky especially if patterns of behaviour are deeply entrenched. There are a number of ways a leader can nudge collective thinking towards being solution focused and innovative.

Six ways a leader can nudge collective thinking towards being solution focused and innovative

  1. Develop self-awareness

    It has been shown we tend to take opinions as facts if they match our perspective. Checking in on our beliefs and statements raises awareness of where subconscious bias may be at work.

  2. Encourage active listening

    The leader who listens demonstrates a willingness to hear differences of opinion. This not only reduces groupthink, but it also encourages the sharing of ideas, promotes inclusion and tolerance of difference, and reduces fear of judgement.

  3. Be consistent with your message

    Effective communication is the key to maintaining trust and understanding of the higher goal. Providing clarity and consistency of message inspires others to share your vision.

  4. Provide encouragement

    Feeling encouraged to do better, helps to remove the comparison with others and mobilises the desire to improve on our personal best. Acknowledging team effort encourages all participants to continue lifting their game and work more collaboratively in a can-do environment. Calling out the collective good promotes the mantra of ‘together we can’.

  5. Provide the autonomy for great work

    Having permission to do good work that is appreciated, valued and seen to contribute to something bigger than ourselves provides a sense of purpose and pride in the work completed. This helps to keep stress levels down, facilitating the generation of greater insight and innovative ideas, and promotes collaboration and boosts productivity.

  6. Take time out for divergent thinking

    Focused thinking is convergent. It’s great for task-oriented work that requires logic, reasoning and analysis. Divergent thought occurs when we uncouple from our focus and allow the mind to wander. This unstructured thinking time is a useful strategy to engage in for more lateral or ‘outside the box’ thinking.

This is especially helpful for creative work. It is about recognising when it’s helpful to sit alone, lost in thought, while remaining curious to what else might be useful.
Developing a collective mindset can take time but is well worth the effort to produce a more effective, happy and productive workforce. When work feels inclusive and energising, it makes everyone feel good and want to contribute and collaborate more.