Marva Collins started in 1975 Westside Preparatory School in Garfield Park, an impoverished neighborhood in Chicago. She took these inner-city kids who had failed in public schools and started to treat like geniuses. Some of her students had been labeled  as “retarded” or “learning disabled.” Early in life, these kids had lost their enthusiasm and lust for life.

These “disabled” kids soon started to read Tolstoy, second graders recited Shakespeare and heated discussions about Kipling were common.

Marva Collins believed people’s qualities are not carved in stone.

This fixed mindset leads you to believe that you will never change. That’s the reason why you think you can’t draw or sing. Somebody told you once that you can’t do certain things, that you are the way you are for the rest of your life. As soon as children become able to evaluate themselves, some of them become afraid of challenges. They become afraid of not being smart. If things get too challenging – when people don’t feel smart or talented – they lose interest.

The growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way – in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments – everyone can change and grow through application and experience. This belief creates a passion for learning. Why would care to prove to the world how great you are, when you can get better? Why try to hide flaws when you can overcome them? And why go for the stuff that worked in the past, instead of trying new experiences?

So, does your brand have a fixed or growth mindset?

Is your brand focused on validating itself all day long? Extremes like Enron and Lehman Brothers come to mind. The newspaper and music industry. Detroit. The graveyard of formerly great companies is littered with brands that had a fixed mindset. They never changed, never the let air in, adjusted to changing times way too late.

Brands based in a growth mindset communicate possibilities. They stand for innovation, they believe in human potential and development, stakeholders are trying to help each other. They embrace failures and cherish learning experiences.

Your company needs to overcome the fixed mindset.

Many successful companies develop fixed mindsets. They refuse to believe that a company with people less talented and not as smart as them can ever have the ability to surpass them. They still believe that attention and market share can be bought. They refuse to push, stretch and confront their own mistakes and grow from them.

They can change and overcome the fixed mindset.

Or they’ll die.

(The inspiration for this post came from “Mindset – The Psychology of success” by Carol S. Dweck, PH.D)