Are you a Know it All or a Learn it All?

Earlier this week, I read an article about Satya Nadella, the Chief Executive of Microsoft. Much of Nadella’s success at Microsoft was down to his great belief in creating a “learning culture”. In the article, Nadella says “I wanted our company to be a team of ‘learn it alls’ rather than ‘know it alls’.  He is regarded as one of the world’s top leaders, having grown market cap by $250 billion since his appointment in 2014.

Learn it Alls rather than Know it Alls? Interestingly what Nadella is referring to here is the concept sometimes known as the Growth Mindset vs the Fixed Mindset. It was the first time I had ever heard the term coined like that.

Nadella inherited a Know it All Culture (Fixed Mindset). People in this mindset struggle to admit their own weaknesses and become very defensive when their mistakes are pointed out, sometimes even going to extreme lengths to cover them up. They are fearful that this may make them look less smart. Leaders with a fixed mindset very often lead through autocracy e.g. ‘my way or the highway’ since they would struggle to respond to adversity should someone suggest a ‘better process’ and diplomacy is often seen as weak. This mindset can be destructive to a team, an individual and an organisation at large.

In contrast, a Learn it All culture (Growth Mindset) sees progress as finding out what you don’t know rather than proclaiming how much you do know. Two great Thought Leaders on this subject are Dr Carol Dweck and Matthew Syed. In his book Black Box Thinking, Syed argues that the single greatest obstacle to progress is failing to learn from mistakes and that a cornerstone to success is in fact a progressive attitude to failure. I would wholeheartedly agree! As a Growth Mindset Advocate and Leader myself for several years, I saw my job as creating leaders who challenged my thinking, who questioned the process and who when they failed would do so safely and learn in the process.

Much of the content we deliver and the coaching we support our clients with is inspired by these Thought Leaders but also by our own firm convictions in the power of the growth mindset to create thriving transparent workplaces. We encourage our clients to develop this mindset and adopt healthy attitudes towards failure. We see so many organisations struggle time and time again due to a lack of learning culture within their business.

I encourage you as leaders to see your role in the business as Cultural Architects. Nadella managed to alter the culture of Microsoft so that the internal dynamic shifted from defensive to expansive, from fear of change to embracing change, from fixed to growth.

A couple of thoughts before I sign off ‘Are you truly cultivating a Growth Mindset within your team’ or if you don’t lead a team ‘Are you being lead in a way which encourages a Growth Mindset?’

If the answer to these is YES, you’ve made my day!

Have a great evening


If you are interested in this topic and would like to find out more techniques for creating a growth mindset, please get in touch or visit our website

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