Which superhero has a growth mindset?

Edwin and I are preparing a session to talk about Growth Mindset with some of our MACHs (Microsoft Academy of College Hires) at the end of March. MACHs are Microsoft’s equivalent of fresh graduates from university bachelor or master programs, so you are talking generally about people in their late twenties to early thirties.

So, when I first got hold of and set eyes upon our standard deck on Growth Mindset, which was designed for managers, the first words that came to mind was “boring, predictable and corporate”. They were great slides and already had strong visuals and layouts but I wondered how we could breathe some fresh perspectives into the content in an engaging manner with a younger group of employees.

Enter Batman and Superman to the rescue (Bat signal anyone?).

batman vs supermanAs it turned out, the session we are running is scheduled on the day that “Batman v Superman” opens in cinemas around the world. And as I looked at the trailer clips, I wondered if we could tell a story around growth and fixed mindset based on the story of these two superheroes and in this case, this particular movie.

So, this comic geek decided to see if she could merge Carol Dweck’s research on Growth Mindset with the world of DC comics (I could have done Marvel too, but well, the premier is with DC superheroes).

dweck_mindset.pngSo (a little bit of a spoiler alert if you decide to keep reading down!), measuring Batman and Superman up against Carol Dweck’s framework using the storyline in “Batman vs Superman”, we can see that on “Challenges”, “Obstacles” and “Effort”, Batman and Superman are probably operating in the Growth mindset space. Particularly Batman, I would argue, is a particularly spectacular example of growth mindset in these areas. For in order to go up against Superman (a “man versus God” sized challenge in the world of Superheroes), he would have to have dared to believe that he could take on Superman and live to tell the tale. And in the movie, he is already a middle-aged superhero who is probably getting a little too old to still be  waging a war in general, much less against someone who is almost invincible. Batman would also have had to innovate and use existing and new capabilities to outwit and outplay the man of steel – which he does with an all new Bat-suit that is almost Iron-man like. For Superman, who was born a superhero with all of his superpowers, I would say that there is less of a growth mindset in play in the movie. But if you have always followed the man of steel, you would have seen plenty of growth mindset in “Superman Returns” with Superman having to adjust to a new life as Clark Kent in a world that had moved on in his absence and risking his life to save the world against near impossible odds with the life-threatening presence of kryptonite in the crystallite landmass that Lex Luther had created.

On “Criticism” and “Success of Others”, I would say that both Superheroes were probably initially in the space of Fixed Mindset in the movie. Despite evidence that proves otherwise, both Batman and Superman are convinced the other is a threat to mankind. Their fixed mindset allowed Lex Luther to fan the embers of rivalry (which incidentally is a recurring theme in the DC comics) that would eventually lead to the showdown between the two superheroes and the window of opportunity for Lex to create and unleash Monster on the world.

So there are two important Superhero lessons we can learn from this:

  1. There are multiple aspects of a growth mindset, and so, while we may naturally be strong in some areas, it is likely we are less natural in others
  2. We don’t ‘have’ or ‘have not’ a growth mindset. We approach different situations with different mindsets; or even the same situation on different days

So come March 24, Edwin and I will deliver this interesting session, kitted out in our Superhero tee-shirts, with Edwin making the case for Superman (because he is a big fan of Superman) and I will be making the case for Batman (because I am a big fan of Batman).

Interesting, one last question – Does Lex Luther also demonstrate a growth mindset? Hmm, perhaps Supervillains too demonstrate a growth mindset? Anyone cares to don a supervillain tee-shirt and join us for the debate?

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