Getting to Yes, And

A Leader’s Destiny


Mary Murphy

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Kelly talks to Mary Murphy, professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University and the founding director of the Summer Institute on Diversity at Stanford University. Her new book is called “Cultures of Growth."

One of the fascinating aspects of your work is that it focus on the growth mindset of teams rather than individuals.

"If we can really focus at that team level, you know, we can make a lot of progress in people's everyday experience, which is ultimately their reality. And so, I think that there's a lot of focus there. And I talk about this a lot in the book where you can have a whole organization or a group that has a macro, maybe a fixed-minded culture of genius. But you can have these micro cultures of growth within the organization. And those micro cultures are really the places where people experience the most motivation, belonging, trust and commitment over time. And so that - I think - is the place that we really need to focus on when we're actually creating institutional transformation: it's got to start at the local level with people's experiences and their teams.”

Specifically, can you tell us some of the ways a culture of genius is less desirable than a culture of growth?

"It is really what makes the culture of genius actually less competitive, less productive, less likely to be successful in the long run, right? Because, what it's doing is it's relying on this handful of geniuses who are really counted on to make the biggest impact. But we know that, when it comes to innovation, collaboration will happen in these cultures of growth. It's where the high performers want to be because they know that in a culture of genius - where you have it or don't - you're always focused on maintaining your status and reputation. You're looking over your shoulder all the time, because a new star is being born. And so, you're always competing rather than being able to focus on the work at hand.”

Can you tell us about stacked ranking – which is a total culture of genius thing.

“The idea is that you line everybody up. You do your evaluation. You line every single person up in the organization. And then the bottom 20% Are taken right out of the organization and fired. What that means is the rest of the 80% have got to scramble and worry between now and the next quarter when they're doing their next evaluation and hope that they are not in the bottom 20%. What does that do to the individual? It's a theory of motivation. The theory is that in these harsh, proven, performed environments those that are smart, those that are competent, they will rise to the top. and the rest. Well, maybe we don't want them there. but internally, what it does is it makes everybody on my team my competition. And that's right. That's right. And it taught, I mean, how more clear could it be the fixed mindset belief? You either have it or you don't look to your left. You look to your right. Only a couple of you will be here at the end of the year. Right? This is how we build in these structures that communicate these fixed minded beliefs on the part of the organization.”

Photo Credit: Christine Baker

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