The power of yet is a Ted Talk by Carol Dweck I watched recently which focused on different mindsets for growth and achievement. Carol starts her oration by talking about a high school in Chicago that has eliminated the letter “F” as a grade and replacing it with the phrase “Not Yet”. When I heard this I immediately began to fantasize about what my life would look like if “NY” had been a grade when I was a student, then it hit me that I would more than still be in school. The point however, is that this open-ended grade versus the absolutism of an F helps students shift from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

Carol Dweck conducted the studies that provided the evidence for her talk.  She tested kids with math problems that were slightly too challenging for them and split them into two groups. One of the groups would receive an F if they didn’t solve the equation correctly, and the other would receive a “Not Yet” if they didn’t find the right answer. During these studies, Carol monitored the brain activity of the kids in both groups and found that when the students got an F, it significantly decreased brain activity in the kids. They additionally were uninterested in continuing with the problem, and in some cases, looked for other participants that did worse on the test than they did to feel better about themselves. This, Carol argues, is the result of the fixed mindset and the danger is that it makes people unwilling to step out of their comfort zone to learn and grow.

On the other hand, the students who received the NY grade showed an increase in brain activity. She argues that by not seeing failure as permanent the students were able to rationally understand the failure, to move past it and learn from it, and then to apply the lessons learned in the future. “Not Yet” takes away the permanence of failure and almost challenges the individual to apply themselves that much more to the problem at hand. To help prove this, Carol and game scientists at the University of Washington created a Math learning game that would reward the players for effort, strategy, and processes they developed to solve the problem. She and her researchers found that the players engaged more with the game and came up with more creative and strategic ways to solve the problems.

The ability to think with a growth mindset, juxtaposed to a fixed mindset, is something that can be taught at home by parents according to Carol. Kids who are taught at an early age that the process of learning is more valuable than getting good grades, are more open to learning and mental development. Carol presented a graph of her results with her studies and online game which showed that the kids who received praise for their problem solving and growth mindsets, grew more intelligent over time. She continued to show the proof of this concept by showing how underprivileged schools with lower than average test results, surpassed almost all the other schools in the same district after implementing the growth mindset education model. Their adoption of “Not Yet” produced more capable kids who weren’t afraid of a challenge, or the learning curve that came with the challenge.

To me, I immediately related my Fast Track experience to this same concept. Many of us in the program, do not have any kind of Project Management experience and I certainly had no idea what PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) or PMI (Project Management Institute) was. For me, my development into a Project Manager is a matter of “Not Yet”. In time I will be able to lead a project and develop an SOW (Statement of Work) from start to finish but right now I engage in the learning process to be able to reach that goal.