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Growth Mindset as Strategy for Business Growth

How to connect growth mindset to business growth?

Part 1 – This is the first article in a series exploring how to apply growth mindset and the Safe2Great method to different strategic scenarios.

New Products & Services and Go2Market Strategies

Over the past eight years, my engagement with the Safe2Great model has been more than an academic exercise; it has been a transformative journey across various business terrains and strategic frontiers. In this time, the model’s principles have not only been applied but rigorously tested and refined, unveiling the profound adaptability and potential of a growth mindset in diverse business settings. 

Growth Mindset is transformative.

In this analysis, “Growth Mindset – as Strategy for Business Growth,” I offer a distilled synthesis of these experiences, aiming to demonstrate the universal applicability and transformative power of psychological safety and growth mindset in business. This is not merely a collection of case studies; it is a narrative of real-world applications, challenges surmounted, and the tangible impact of fostering a culture of growth.

As we explore this model’s application, it is my hope that the insights presented will resonate with business leaders and professionals. This review is intended to serve as a compelling testament to psychological safety and growth mindset’s efficacy, illustrating their role not just as theoretical concepts but as practical, versatile solutions that significantly enhances organizational resilience, innovation, and success in today’s dynamic business landscape.

Growth Mindset

“Growth Mindset,” a term often attributed to Carol Dweck, revolves around the belief that abilities and intelligence can be developed. It has provided the inspiration for many organizations, none the least Microsoft, to transform their leadership, business and culture. 

In a leadership context, fostering a growth mindset means encouraging and rewarding not just success but also the learning process. It involves recognizing the value of challenges, persistence, and effort as pathways to mastery and personal development. Leaders with a growth mindset are more likely to foster innovation, resilience, and adaptability among their teams.

“Growth mindset is more than learning theory; it’s about exceeding expectations and achieving the extraordinary. It’s where individual and team efforts transform the impossible into reality, not by magic, but through solid science and repeatable practices.”

Skip Bowman

Since 2015, I have led a research project to explore methods and principles to apply not only growth mindset to business organizations, but also to integrate the concept with psychological safety, championed by people like Amy Edmondson and Timothy R. Clark.

Quote about Growth Mindset from the book, Safe to Great - the new psychology of leadership

The main differences between Dweck’s concept of growth mindset and mine are.

  1. Learning is important but not as profound as growth.
  2. Growth requires a reconfiguration of what we know and how we see ourselves.
  3. Learning and growth are profoundly social – our potential for success depends significantly more on our ability to mobilize and collaborate with others.
  4. A “fixed mindset” is reconceptualized as 3 types of protective mindset.

The “Safe to Great” model complements growth mindset by emphasizing the importance of psychological safety in the workplace. This model suggests that for individuals and teams to reach their fullest potential (“great”), they first need an environment where they feel safe. 

This safety is not just physical but psychological, meaning that team members feel secure to speak their minds, take risks, and express their opinions without fear of negative consequences. In such an environment, learning from mistakes is encouraged, and feedback is given constructively, fostering personal and organisational growth.

“A growth mindset ultimately allows you to realize and exceed your personal potential and relational potential. To bring out more than you ever thought possible in yourself AND others.”

– Skip Bowman (“The Ultimate Guide to Growth Mindset”)

Growth Strategies 

The most common places I have met the need for change and growth have been in global organizations grappling with the need to find growth in sales and substantial improvements in organizational effectiveness. New products, new markets and new IT systems have been common drivers of a need to shift how, where and when people work; and how leaders shape the workplace in response to these business needs.

Below, I review some of the most common strategic business challenges and how I have applied growth mindset and the Safe2Great model to develop leaders, teams and organizations to align and catalyze business growth.

The common thread for all initiatives is using leadership development as a tool for making real change.

I will be using examples of projects I have worked on personally and those I have studied as part of writing the book “Safe to Great – the New Psychology of Leadership”.

1. New Products & Services and Go2Market Strategies

As companies innovate, introducing new products, services, or customer engagement models, they demand their teams not just to understand these changes but to become their champions.

It’s a dual learning curve – understanding the intrinsic value of these novelties and mastering the art of conveying this value to the customers. A growth mindset here transforms potential resistance into curiosity and turns learning opportunities into a competitive edge.

Challenge: overcoming resistance to change and the preference for sticking to old practices and products is a common obstacle in organisational growth and innovation. This reluctance often stems from a fear of failure or looking incompetent, especially when trying something new requires stepping out of one’s comfort zone. 

Example: Microsoft’s Shift to Cloud Services

“empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”


Microsoft, historically celebrated for its software and hardware offerings, skillfully navigated a strategic pivot towards cloud services with the launch of its Azure platform. This transition wasn’t merely a shift in products but a fundamental transformation in the company’s market approach and identity.

Understanding the nuances of selling cloud services compared to tangible products, Microsoft initiated extensive training programs. These programs were meticulously designed to ensure the sales team deeply understood cloud technology, grasping the full scope and advantages of Azure’s offerings.

Microsoft didn’t stop at theoretical training. It implemented practical, interactive workshops and simulations, providing the sales team with a hands-on approach to mastering customer interactions. This experiential learning ensured the team could confidently navigate customer queries, effectively articulate the benefits of Azure, and address any potential reservations about transitioning to cloud services.

Recognizing the importance of customer-centric product development, Microsoft actively sought out and integrated customer feedback. Engagement initiatives, such as forums and workshops, were key in collecting firsthand insights, allowing Microsoft to fine-tune Azure’s services and align them more closely with customer needs and market demands.

With a well-trained sales force and valuable customer insights, Microsoft adeptly positioned Azure in the market. The sales teams, equipped with in-depth knowledge and customer feedback, were able to tailor their messaging, highlighting Azure as not just a cloud service, but a transformative solution enabling businesses to thrive in the digital landscape.

Microsoft’s foray into cloud computing, epitomized by the launch of Azure, signified more than a mere technological shift; it marked a profound transformation in its business approach and corporate identity. 

The company underwent a metamorphosis, redefining its purpose to not just serve but to empower every individual and organization across the globe to achieve more, placing a significant emphasis on the role of cloud infrastructure in this lofty mission. 

This pivot brought customer empowerment to the forefront of Microsoft’s strategy, fundamentally altering the nature of its offerings. No longer were their products merely tools; they evolved into comprehensive solutions designed to foster transformation and growth, enabling businesses to navigate and thrive in the digital landscape.

This transformative journey at Microsoft was deeply anchored in a commitment to understanding and addressing the evolving needs of its customers, a commitment that profoundly enhanced the overall customer experience. 

This dedication was most palpable in their holistic approach to their services. Microsoft ventured beyond the conventional boundaries of merely vending cloud services; it endeavored to offer all-encompassing solutions, replete with robust support, stringent security, and a versatile platform that was not just a product but a catalyst for innovation and growth.

Example: Starbucks’ Digital Transformation in Customer Engagement

to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, 
and one neighborhood at a time.


As consumer behaviors increasingly shifted towards digital convenience and personalization, Starbucks, a global leader in coffee retail, embarked on a transformative journey to reengage with its core mission and values, centering around inspiring and nurturing the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.

The introduction of the Starbucks mobile app marked a significant step in this transformation, reshaping the company’s customer engagement model to align with the evolving digital landscape.

At the heart of this transformation was Starbucks’ commitment to its foundational principles. The company reinvigorated its focus on creating a warm, welcoming environment in its stores, where customers could savor high-quality coffee and foster community connections, adhering to its vision of being the “third place” between work and home. Concurrently, Starbucks reinforced its dedication to ethical sourcing and environmental stewardship, investing in sustainable practices that resonated with eco-conscious consumers.

Recognizing its employees as central to the customer experience, Starbucks invested in its workforce, offering competitive benefits, growth opportunities, and a supportive work environment. This investment underpinned the company’s purpose of nurturing the human spirit, beginning with its own team members.

In its pursuit of making a positive societal impact, Starbucks strengthened its ties with local communities and global social causes through various initiatives, thereby amplifying its commitment to social responsibility and community spirit. Simultaneously, to stay at the forefront of the industry and continuously inspire its customers, Starbucks embraced innovation, adapting to changing consumer preferences with an expanded product range and personalized experiences through digital advancements like its mobile app.

The success of Starbucks’ digital transformation was not solely due to technological innovation but also hinged on the company’s ability to align, train, and empower its workforce to navigate this new direction.

The mobile app, with its suite of features like mobile ordering, payment, and a loyalty rewards program, revolutionized the customer experience by offering unmatched convenience, personalization, and engagement. Leadership played a pivotal role in this transition, articulating a clear vision, fostering a culture of open communication, and driving a unified approach to the new customer engagement model.

Through comprehensive training, supportive change management strategies, and a culture that values employee input and collaborative innovation, Starbucks not only navigated the challenges of this significant shift but also set new industry standards for digital customer engagement.

The company’s unwavering commitment to its digital transformation, recognition of employee contributions, and continuous feedback integration have been instrumental in shaping a customer experience that is not just transactional but enriching and emblematic of Starbucks’ enduring mission and values.


  • Embracing Change: Both companies recognized and capitalized on industry shifts, viewing change as an opportunity for growth. 
  • Reengage with purpose: A deep reengagement with their corporate purpose involving a fundamental shift in how the companies saw their roles in customers’ lives and how they leveraged their resources to fulfill that role. 
  • Making commitments to community and society: shifting focus from profit-only to embracing broader social and environmental goals.
  • Continuous Learning: Invested in extensive training and development to equip their workforce with the skills needed for new business models.
  • Employee Involvement: Fostered a culture where employee feedback and involvement were integral to the transformation process.
  • Leadership Alignment: Leaders set a clear vision and exemplified commitment to the new strategic direction, aligning the entire organization.
  • Customer-Centric Adaptation: Continuously refined products and services based on customer insights, ensuring relevance and competitiveness.

Growth Mindset Principles by Safe2Great

The transformation of companies like Starbucks and Microsoft exemplifies the holistic integration of the six growth principles, crucial for reshaping sales and customer engagement models. These cases highlight the shift from protective to growth mindsets, notably Microsoft’s evolution from “know-it-alls” to “learn-it-alls” under CEO Satya Nadella, emphasizing continuous learning, innovation, and a collective drive for improvement as the cornerstone of successful organizational change.

AIM HIGH: Involves communicating ambitious, but realistic goals. Clear communication and guidance are the key, together with planning for success by using systematic and analytical approaches and looking for root cause of problems. Result-oriented and goal-oriented. Team members are inspired to surpass their perceived limitations and innovate beyond traditional boundaries.

EXPLORE: Curious and open to new experiences. Reflects a level of integrity, sharing and standing up for one’s beliefs and values. Humility, admitting mistakes and accepting negative feedback and criticism and learning from it. Creative and innovative approach to the work. 

TRANSFORM: Creates a bold vision, motivates others with a noble purpose, demonstrates the meaningfulness and impact of work on stakeholders, serves customers and the company with dedication, brings the organization together across boundaries and builds better communities and a sustainable future.

GO HIGH: Based on principles of positive psychology, this principle is expressed by understanding one’s own emotions and being able to control them, even under pressure. Recovering from setbacks and resilience. Developing healthy mental and physical fitness practices. Understanding and responding effectively to the emotions of others. 

LIFT OTHERS UP: Creates a culture of recognition and appreciation, where successes are celebrated, and learning from failures is encouraged. This style reflects on lifting and growing other people by coaching and helping others proactively. Furthermore, it includes supportive behaviors such as giving feedback, solving conflicts, and encouraging others to take risks and learn. 

TEAM UP: The team-up style reflects one’s collaborative engagement with others and whether one is socially confident, shares insights openly with others, shows empathy and creates effective relationships and a positive team culture. Effective in collective problem-solving. Creates trust, builds relationships especially with new people.

Questions for Reflection

Alignment with Vision:

How well does your current change project align with your organization’s overall vision, purpose and strategic objectives? Are all stakeholders, including leadership and team members, on the same page regarding the purpose and expected outcomes of the project?

Change Leadership

How effectively are you identifying and understanding the potential concerns or challenges your team may face during the change project? How are you ensuring that team members feel supported and valued during the transition period?

Employee Engagement and Training:

What measures are you taking to ensure that your employees are not only aware of the changes but are also equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to adapt to them? How are you facilitating a culture of continuous learning and development to support the change?

Feedback and Adaptation:

How are you incorporating feedback mechanisms into your change project to ensure ongoing evaluation and adaptation? Are you prepared to pivot or make iterative changes based on the feedback and insights you receive from your team and other stakeholders?

Customer-Centric Focus:

How does your change project cater to evolving customer needs and market demands? Are you leveraging customer feedback and market analysis to ensure that the changes you implement enhance customer value and give your organization a competitive edge?

PART 2 Next Article – How to apply growth mindset to innovation and new product development?

Skip Bowman, keynote speaker on psychological safety and growth mindset

Skip Bowman

Author of Safe2Great, keynote speaker on psychological safety and growth mindset

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