In 2006, social psychologist Carol Dweck released her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The book was a runaway bestseller, with over 2 million copies in print (according to the cover).
The book, based on Dweck’s research, argued that, in essence, there are two fundamental mindsets, each at opposite ends of the spectrum. There is a “fixed mindset” and a “growth mindset”. Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that success is a result of innate, static traits. Intelligence and talents are fixed and everyone must do the best with what they have. On the other hand, individuals with a growth mindset believe that their talents, abilities, and intelligence can be expanded through effort, teaching, and persistence.
Dweck argued that those with a growth mindset were much more likely to be successful than those with a fixed mindset.
The goal of the book, therefore, was to encourage people to embrace a growth mindset in all areas of life. To believe that they and those around them were absolutely brimming with potential and that with a concerted effort they could expand upon their natural talents and abilities.
From November 4th, 2006 until August of 2019, the website MindsetOnline.com was available to anyone who wanted additional resources related to the growth mindset. Then, without explanation, the website ceased to exist.
So what happened to MindsetOnline.com?
What Was MindsetOnline.com?
MindsetOnline.com was a relatively simple website, clearly dedicated to supporting and furthering the ideas in the book.
There were sections:
Describing the growth mindset
Explaining how mindset affects achievement, parenting, teaching, coaching, sports, business and leadership, and relationships
Describing how to change your mindset
About Carol Dweck
Offering additional discussion questions and reading materials
About the book itself
Most notably, the site also offered a mindset test that would help you determine whether you had a fixed or growth mindset.
What seems clear is that the website functioned primarily as a marketing tool to promote the book. The concepts for the book were introduced at a high level with the assumption that site visitors would want to learn more about them and buy the book. The mindset test would give visitors insight into their current mindset, and presumably, make them want to purchase the book so that they could further their growth.
While it’s not totally clear who owned the website, it seems likely that it was owned by either by Dweck herself or by Ballantine Books (the publisher). Creating a promotional website in conjunction with the release of a book is common in the publishing world and is most likely the reason MindsetOnline was created.
The Controversy Around Mindset Theory
For a number of years following the publication of the book, the mindset theory was widely embraced. But in recent years, criticism of Dweck’s work and theory have been raised.
Two primary criticisms have been raised. First, no one has been able to replicate Dweck’s results. Numerous researchers have created tests like Dweck’s in an effort to verify her research, with less than impressive results. At a minimum, this calls into question Dweck’s original research. Why did she get results that no one else has been able to get?
Second, there seems to be relatively little evidence that having a growth mindset directly correlates with being successful. A recent meta-study at Case Western Reserve University analyzed over 300 mindset studies in an effort to determine whether having a growth mindset produced measurable results.
Speaking to Wired, study co-author Brooke Macnamara said this:
We found limited evidence for mindset theory and the evidence varied by the specific claims. For example, overall, we found a [statistically] significant but weak relationship between growth mindsets and academic achievement, and a significant, but small effect of growth mindset interventions on academic achievement.
In other words, having a growth mindset probably isn’t as important to success as Dweck suggested in her book.
Growth Mindset and Human Resources
Dweck’s original research and the followup studies it has spawned have at least two implications for human resources.
On the one hand, businesses should evaluate mindset when hiring and training employees. After all, there is some evidence (albeit a small amount) that a growth mindset promotes success more than a fixed mindset. Generally speaking, having a growth mindset is a positive thing and should at least be a factor in employee training and hiring. This can be seen in emerging trends and practices.
On the other hand, it’s clear that having a growth mindset is not the be all end all when it comes to success. It is simply one factor among many, along with things like experience, emotional intelligence, resourcefulness, and education. Placing undue emphasis on having a growth mindset could lead to ineffective employee hiring and training.
Success Is Complicated
Really, we shouldn’t be surprised that there’s more to success than having a growth mindset. After all, people are complicated. A thousand factors influence who we are, including family history, talents, education, health, financial status, social status, and so much more. There are ways to monitor this through employee management systems.
Because people are complicated, we should expect success to also be complicated, in the sense that there is no one governing factor that determines whether or not a person will succeed.
Should we discard Dweck’s research? Certainly not. There is value in having a growth mindset. But we need to be careful that we’re not reductionist in our view of people and success.
So What Happened To MindsetOnline.com?
From the day it launched until the day it went offline, MindsetOnline.com changed very little. The site design was never updated, which furthers the idea that it was primarily intended as a marketing tool for the book. Once the initial surge of promotion for the book was done, there was little need to update the website. The cost of updating the website would probably outweigh any additional book sales.
It seems most likely that whoever was maintaining the website simply took it down in August of 2019. The book was 13 years old and there probably was very little traffic to the site. The cost of maintaining the website simply wasn’t worth it anymore.