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Yes you can grow your brain (Part 2). But it really does matter how you perceive yourself.


I'm sure if you are alike me then it's quit easy to become a little dismissive of the whole 'positive thinking' thing.  Maybe it's been taken too far, but I struggle somewhat with the idea that just believing it will bring something about. I've believed for years that I need to own a Ferrari before I kick the bucket, but it' a longtime coming!  Yet interestingly somewhere in the darkest reaches of my brain there are some positive grey cells that whisper even as I write "hey why not, maybe I can secure a gleaming red prancing horse in the garage before reaching glory".  

There have been many studies on this topic, and the evidence that they amass certainly does seem compelling. Not least compelling when related to our ability to learn.  In a study by Carol Dweck a psychologist from the university of Stamford, a ‘growth mindset’ has a major impact on students ability to learn.  Those students that believed their intellect and intelligence was fixed stumbled at the first hurdle, whereas students who saw that that their intelligence was malleable reacted to adversity by working harder and trying out new strategies. 

This idea supports the knowledge that we can indeed grow our brains by exercising them regularly (See previous post).  Losing the constraint that says “I can’t do it” is without doubt a major step towards learning and doing something new.  This week I experienced the impact of this first hand.  UK VAT law is complicated, to me it’s absurdly complicated, so much so that I crumble at the thought of being able to understand it and because of this have historically pulled out the cheque book and written out (not insignificant) sums of money for our accountant to solve the riddles of HMRC.  So this week, when faced with the additional complexity of EU VAT law, I met my growing frustration at having to payout for yet more advise with a new determination to get my own head around it and learn what we needed to know.  Not only was that a liberating “growth mindset’, it was a financially beneficial one!  I didn’t time it, but I guess within 30 minutes or so, we had interrogated the HMRC website documents, called the VAT helpline, and solved the riddle that had caused us to stumble.  It was still complicated, but rather than falling at the first hurdle, we worked harder at trying out new strategies.  

So let’s put this thought into the context of learning and development.  It’s quite possible that one of the largest barriers to student learning is what’s in the mind of the student themselves.  Which suggests that those of us tasked with facilitating peoples personal development should give proper consideration to this.  What should we be doing to engender a growth mindset with the gathered cohort?  How should we convert those who have arrived on our training courses, believing that their intellect and intelligence is fixed?  Your own suggestions on this would be very welcome.  

Maybe we need to commence our learning programmes with this theme, designing some interactions that highlight the differences between the “can’t teach an old dog new tricks” mindset verses the ‘successfuls’ constant willingness to “sharpen the saw”.  Maybe we could literally teach those old dogs a new trick or two just to prove the point?  Anyone know any good card tricks?  

Food for thought; meanwhile, I just need to see if there are any Ferraris listed on 

At iManage we are just weeks away from providing you with a bunch of fun new learning moments to help grow your brain. We are calling it the LOL_v project (little online learning video).  It’s something we are going to encourage anyone, anywhere to contribute to or just enjoy completely free of charge.  Follow my blog or twitter feeds for all the forth coming details.  

Bob Bannister

Twitter: @bbbannister & @iManage


Download a pdf of the blog here.

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