According to data from the World Economic Forum, it is estimated that some 65% of children entering primary schools today will likely work in roles that don’t currently exist.  It is also expected that the pace of change in the job market will start to accelerate by 2020. Office and administrative functions, along with manufacturing and production roles, will see dramatic declines accounting for over six million roles over the next four years. Conversely, business and financial operations along with computer and mathematical functions will see steep rises.  New technologies will cause steep job losses in some sectors and industries. Building a resilient labour force, will therefore be critical with such rapid technological change.

According to the World Economic Forum, we have entered into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  The World Economic Forum indicates that there are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.

So what will ensure survival of the fittest in an era of disruptive change?

Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of Mindvalley estimates that  99% of the population on the planet embraces a “victim mentality”. He calls it the level of the “Victim Stage”. It’s the level where we are functioning in the world based on what society, culture, education and the rules of the world tell us we need to do and we are successful at not questioning the norms. We are comfortable in this stage because it provides a “fixed framework” or a “comfort zone” for us to operate in. However this isn’t the framework that necessarily guarantees success. Ultra successful leaders such as Arianna Huffington, Sir. Richard Branson and Peter Diamandis have all embraced challenges and questioned the status quo to achieve growth.

Carol Dweck, professor at Stanford University spent over 3 decades trying get to the root of why some people are able to figure out and overcome new challenges, while others failed. She found that there were two different approaches to life and resulting behaviors that separated the ultra-successful from the rest. These two habits are known as the “fixed mindset” and the “growth mindset”.

Dweck found in her research, that a “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are “static givens” which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenges and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.  The figure below illustrates the difference between the two mindsets.

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In my own observations as a Leader and a trained Economist – in an age of innovation disruption – the dangers of cultivating a fixed mindset in corporate culture as well as in our schools and educational institutions will become more evident as the pace of innovation change goes faster.

Dweck cites a poll of 143 creativity researchers, who concurred that the number-one trait underpinning creative achievement is precisely the kind of resilience and fail-forward perseverance attributed to the growth mindset.

The “growth mindset” is therefore the one most compatible with the rate of innovation change. At the heart of what makes the “growth mindset” so critical is that it creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval. Its hallmark is the conviction that human qualities like intelligence and creativity, and even relational capacities like love and friendship, can be cultivated through effort and deliberate practice. Not only are people with this mindset not discouraged by failure, but they don’t actually see themselves as failing in those situations — they see themselves as learning.

Indeed, the growth mindset can be formed very early in life.  In one study, Dweck and her colleagues offered four-year-olds a choice: They could either redo an easy jigsaw puzzle, or try a harder one. Even these young children conformed to the characteristics of one of the two mindsets — those with “fixed” mentality stayed on the safe side, choosing the easier puzzles that would affirm their existing ability, articulating to the researchers their belief that smart kids don’t make mistakes; those with the “growth” mindset thought it an odd choice to begin with, perplexed why anyone would want to do the same puzzle over and over if they aren’t learning anything new. In other words, the fixed-mindset kids wanted to make sure they succeeded in order to seem smart, whereas kids with the growth-mindset wanted to stretch themselves, for their definition of success was about becoming smarter.

These findings are especially important in not only education but in our corporate culture in terms of not only how we assess intelligence but how we reward “results”. In another study of hundreds of students, mostly adolescents, Dweck and her colleagues gave each ten fairly challenging problems from a nonverbal IQ test, then praised the student for his or her performance — most had done pretty well. But they offered two types of praise: Some students were told “Wow, you got [X many] right. That’s a really good score. You must be smart at this,” while others, “Wow, you got [X many] right. That’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard.” In other words, some were praised for ability and others for effort. The findings revealed that:

“The ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didn’t want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent. In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from”.

In building resilient kids, recognizing that each setback can serve to equip kids with adequate coping skills and therefore a more diverse toolbox will be invaluable in a rapidly changing world.  Author and parenting expert Jessica Lahey, argues that kids actually need failure in order for them to learn to deal with the “failures that happen out there, in the real world, that carry far higher stakes.”

These lessons provide educators and corporate leaders with insights into the behaviors that need to be encouraged in a rapidly-changing disruptive world. This is especially true for those entering into positions of leadership.  Rosalinde Torres in her TED Talk entitled “What it Takes to Be a Good Leader”, outlines the critical competencies of good leaders in the 21st century. Torres argues that leaders must be flexible, prepared and ready to adapt to new intelligence, data and findings. Leaders must be willing to try new alternative approaches to problem solving and not remain stuck in comfort zones of the past. The key is knowing when change is required and how to monitor for the desired outcomes. There must be a careful balance in weighing when to transition from the past to a new approach.

In essence, adopting a growth mindset is the one secret that separates the ultra successful from the rest.

Keisha Blair

Keisha Blair is the co-founder of, a Featured Expert on and is now working on an upcoming memoir.