How Recruiting iPhone Designers is Like Raising Kids

When two of the really amazing thinkers I admire — Ken Bain and Jeanne Liedtka — both say they admire Carol Dweck, I figure it’s time to figure out who Dweck is. Her latest book, Mindset, provides some fascinating psychological support for the power of play and prototyping, as she says…

People who believe in the power of talent tend not to fulfill their potential because they’re so concerned with looking smart and not making mistakes. But people who believe that talent can be developed are the ones who really push, stretch, confront their own mistakes and learn from them.

Janet Rae-Dupree, writing in the New York Times, reveals an interesting connection between Dweck and the iPhone:

After reading her book, Scott Forstall, senior vice president of Apple in charge of iPhone software, contacted Ms. Dweck to talk about his experience putting together the iPhone development team. Mr. Forstall told her that he identified a number of superstars within various departments at Apple and asked them in for a chat.

At the beginning of each interview, he warned the recruit that he couldn’t reveal details of the project he was working on. But he promised the opportunity, Ms. Dweck says, “to make mistakes and struggle, but eventually we may do something that we’ll remember the rest of our lives.”

Only people who immediately jumped at the challenge ended up on the team. “It was his intuition that he wanted people who valued stretching themselves over being king of their particular hill,” she says.

Her Wikipedia profile makes the connection with raising kids:

…children given praise such as “good job, you’re very smart” are much more likely to develop an fixed mindset, whereas if given compliments like “good job, you worked very hard” they are likely to develop a growth mindset. In other words, it is possible to encourage students, for example, to persist despite failure by encouraging them to think about learning in a certain way.

1 comment

  1. Loved this piece on the inverse power of praise — I agree personally and professionally that rewarding the struggle rather than the facility attracts a certain kind of star.

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