Lagos: cultivating and sustaining a growth mindset
By Akintola Benson-Oke
WITHOUT an iota of doubt, the administration of His Excellency, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has heavily invested in the transformation of the Lagos State Public Service. Championed by him and anchored by the Ministry of Establishments, Training and Pensions, this administration has engaged all departments and units of the public service in trainings and workshops designed to improve productivity, deepen knowledge, expand horizon, and re-evaluate and sharpen vision and focus.
These efforts were made in pursuance of the promise and undertaking made by His Excellency on May 29, 2015 when, in his Inaugural Speech, he said to the good people of Lagos State and the whole world as follows:
“As we all know, the best practices of yesterday may not be good enough for the products of today. In this sense, we shall embark on continuous reforms in the public service. I am determined to demonstrate that the government belongs to the citizens. You have put us here as servants to serve you and not you serving us. Today we are committed to that creed.
“Moving forward, the Civil Service will be strengthened and made to respond to the needs of all citizens in the same manner quality services are rendered in the private sector.
“My administration is prepared to take the decisions needed to promote merit and professionalism. To restructure where required, eliminate poor Human Resource practices and accelerate the pace of reforms in the spirit of good governance.”
Now, all stakeholders are beginning to notice and appreciate the investments made to build and deepen capacity in the Lagos State Public Service. From citizens to donor agencies, and from civil societies to the media, objective evaluations testify to a Lagos State Public Service that is better motivated, better focused, and better equipped to confront the challenges of modern governance and administration in an emerging, dynamic and rapidly-growing global and smart city.
While we delight in this achievement, we are mindful that our work is not done. We appreciate that there is a place called ‘better.’ We are conscious that the task of fully realising the vision set out by His Excellency as highlighted above is only best described as ‘work-in-progress.’ To this end, the Lagos State Executive Council has carried out a detailed evaluation of the public service in light of the investments and progress so far made with a view to determining the next critical step in the effort to ensure that the public service performs at its optimal level and delivers exponential value to the citizens of Lagos State.
That evaluation has identified that, aside from skills-capable development, it is imperative to embark on an extensive, rigorous, sustained, and public service-wide advocacy that addresses what social scientists have identified as the most cognate component of organisational development: that is, the changing and substitution of a ‘Fixed Mindset’ to, and with, a ‘Growth Mindset.’ Thus, the next critical area of focus for those charged with the development of capacity in the public service is not infrastructure or knowledge deepening. These have received, and continue to receive, substantial and adequate investments and attention from this administration. Rather, the next critical area of focus for those charged with the development of capacity in the public service is the renewal and transformation of the mindset of our public officers.
Indeed, decades of scientific research supports the conclusion that the mindsets of the human agents of organisations do really matter. One of the leaders of thought who have demonstrated that mindsets do really matter is Dr. Carol S. Dweck, a world-renowned Stanford University Psychologist. According to a publication that has been severally cited, Dr. Dweck’s research conclusions were summarised as follows:1 “In 1988, Dr. Dweck first presented a research-based model to show the impact of mindsets. She showed how a person’s mindset sets the stage for either performance goals or learning goals. A student with a performance goal might be worried about looking smart all the time, and avoid challenging work. On the other hand, a student with a learning goal will pursue interesting and challenging tasks in order to learn more. In subsequent studies, Dr. Dweck found that people’s theories about their own intelligence had a significant impact on their motivation, effort, and approach to challenges. Those who believe their abilities are malleable are more likely to embrace challenges and persist despite failure. This model of the fixed vs. growth mindset shows how cognitive, affective, and behavioural features are linked to one’s beliefs about the malleability of their intelligence”.
The latter part of the summarised conclusion of Dr. Dweck’s ground-breaking research work brings us to the subject of the ‘Growth Mindset.’ Experts and thought leaders in organisational and capacity development have long distinguished between the ‘Fixed Mindset’ and the ‘Growth Mindset.’ Maria Pipova describes them as the two mindsets that shape our lives. As surmised, “a ‘fixed mindset’ assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.”
A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behaviour, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness
We are convinced that, by having individual officers of the Lagos State Public Service inculcate the ‘growth mindset,’ we can attain a truly effective, productive, and transformational public service that will surpass the expectations of all stakeholders. In practical terms, our advocacy will be to challenge and encourage all officers of the Lagos State Public Service to embrace a ‘growth mindset’ such that the objectives discussed below can be realised.
First, every officer with a ‘growth mindset’ will become interested in understanding and adopting the vision of the public service as a whole and will be empowered to set a clear vision regarding his/her duties and effectively communicate it to colleagues, providing them with a clear understanding of the desired direction from time to time.
As has been severally noted, a crafted vision by itself accomplishes nothing. What matters is whether the officers of the Lagos State Public Service understand and internalise the vision that has been articulated and can, on the basis of that, make aligned procedural choices on their own. The task of the leadership of the public service is to ensure that the unit, departmental, and organisational vision is clearly articulated and communicated.
An inculcated and nourished ‘growth mindset’ will thereafter ensure that the officers of the Lagos State Public Service are committed to making sound tactical and operational decisions that are aligned with the articulated vision.
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