Friday, March 14, 2008

Changing Mindsets ... A Path to Success

An interview with Carol Dweck, Ph.D., author of the book "Mindsets: The New Psychology of Success."
by Steve Kayser

* This is an abstracted version of the article "Have a Change of Mindset?"


A great word for the 2008 presidential candidates to position around. It's positive. And negative.

An Overwhelming Constant

But for us regular muck-a-mucks battling through the life of business, trying to stay competitive with marketable business skills, change is an overwhelming constant. It batters us with dizzying storms of unfathomable amounts of information. Howling hurricanes of digital rain.
Just to stay even you have to run uphill.

I work in Public Relations for a software company called
Cincom Systems. To do my job adequately (keep abreast of the new technologies, strategies and tactics) I need to read at least three to four hours per day. Let me repeat that. Just to keep up, I need to read at least three to four hours per day.

But I don't. I can't. Am I derelict in my duties? Not purposefully. My brain just can't cope with the immense amount of information. Besides, (in my defense) I'm busy with 200-300 business e-mails (not counting junk mail) that need attention. Think I'm wrong?


According to IDC 's 2008 "Expanding Digital Universe" (research paper), the amount of digital information created, captured and replicated in 2007 was 281 exabytes.

What's an exabyte?

Simple,1000 petabytes.

What's a petabyte?

Simpler, 1,000 terabytes.

Stop! Help Me Understand

Two hundred and eighty one exabytes is more than three million times the information in all the books ever written*.

Most of that went into my e-mail.

IDC also estimated the 281 exabytes would increase to 1,800 exabytes by 2011.

Help Me Understand ... Again

988 exabytes, the number the previous IDC report indicated would be reached by 2010, is equivalent to 72 stacks of books, 93 million miles each.

How to Keep Up?

That's a critical question for everyone in the business world. Are there strategies or tactics that can help free the mind and spirit from this tsunami of digital rain?

Gargantuan Glob-Beelzebub

Are there ways to breakthrough this garagtuan glob-beelzebub of info-clutter to decipher what's important?

To help understand and learn things necessary for our business and personal development?


Turns out there might be.

ENTER: Carol Dweck, Ph.D., author of the book "Mindsets: The New Psychology of Success."

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on why people succeed and how to foster success. She has held professorships at Columbia and Harvard Universities, has lectured all over the world, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Carol's work has been featured in such publications as The New Yorker, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and she has appeared on "Today "and "20/20."

Steve: Mindsets for Success. Let me give you a scenario.


You’re a baby boomer. The thought of not being the best at what you do, or not being very good at what you do and learning a whole new set of skills is both intimidating yet intoxicatingly inspirational. The vast amount of information to consider, consume and absorb in possibly learning new skills is daunting. You're having trouble just keeping up with your own job's knowledge skillset. Your book talks about the two different type of mindsets, "fixed" and "growth." How can those different types of mindsets apply in a situation like this?

Carol: Many people stay in less-than-fulfilling jobs because they need to support their families and pay their bills. This responsibility to others is no small thing. However, many people stay in a confining job for reasons of ego - they’ve achieved some status and don’t want to risk losing it. This can happen to people at any age. The thought of being a novice, making mistakes, and looking stupid is terrifying, and each day it’s easier to remain secure and bored than take the big step.

In our research we find that people with a fixed mindset (those who believe their intelligence is fixed) prefer to do things that will make them look smart and that will shore up their image instead of things that can stretch them and help them increase their skills. This is true even when they might badly need those new skills.

People with a growth mindset (those who believe their abilities can be cultivated) are highly eager to learn, even if it means that they will make mistakes and expose their deficiencies.



Fixed Mindset = Likes to Look Smart ... Not Be Smart

Growth Mindset = Leaps, Learns, Looks Forward

"If I had to live my life again, I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner."

- Tallulah Bankhead

The inventor of several big advances in technology recently came to see me, and told me how he picked his work teams for his important projects. He points out to all potential team-members that they are currently superstars in their units and might wish to stay that way. However, he continues, if they join his team, they will all struggle together and not feel special or superior, but they will accomplish things that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. Many say, “No thanks, I’d rather stay a superstar,” but many others say, “Sign me up; that really sounds exciting.” This is how he assembles his growth-mindset teams.



Fixed Mindset = No Thanks. I'm a Already a Star. Beat it.

Growth Mindset = Thanks. Sign Me Up. Sounds Exciting!

"Learning is not compulsory ... neither is survival."

- W. Edwards Deming

People with a growth mindset realize that effort (even struggling)—and not perpetual, know-it-all perfection is what makes life exciting and worthwhile. Do you want to look back at the end of it all and realize that you looked smart thousands of times but were bored and unfulfilled? Or do you want to look back and know that you stretched, struggled, grew, and became the person you were capable of becoming?



Fixed Mindset = Likes to Look Good - Bored and Unfulfilled

Growth Mindset = Stretches, Struggles, Grows

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death." - Anais Nin

If fear of learning is the only thing keeping you back, then take that step. If responsibility to others is also holding you back, then discuss the matter with your family. They may be willing to pitch in more or make some sacrifices to help you to take that step.

Steve: Aging. How are "mindsets" affected by aging?

Carol: As people head into retirement, those with a fixed mindset may see the possibilities as limited and shrinking. They may hold a stereotype of older people as experiencing inevitable decline and increasing uselessness. Yet, much research is documenting the great ability to learn new things and continue to grow well past one’s 60s and 70s. Those with a growth mindset, while not denying that some things may become more difficult with age, can look with excitement at the many skills they can develop and the many ways they can expand their lives. Retirement becomes a time of opportunity.



Fixed Mindset = Possibilities are Limited & Declining

Growth Mindset = Realistic, Sees Opportunities to Expand Life

"Age is not a particularly interesting subject. Anyone can get old.

All you have to do is live long enough."

- Groucho Marx

Those with a fixed mindset may be afraid to try to learn new things, afraid that the attempt will confirm their ineptitude. Each time they forget something or become confused, they will see it as a sign that they are no longer capable of learning. People with a growth mindset understand that forgetting and confusion were always part of learning - and if they need to work a little harder at learning now than they did before, so be it.

Research shows that life transition seems to be harder for people with a fixed mindset, because they worry at each stage that their skills might not be up to the task and that they will be exposed as inadequate. We can see how this fear would be magnified as people enter a stage of life that is not commonly known for its growth opportunities. This is why a growth mindset is especially critical at this point in life.

Steve: Is this growth mindset an innate, predisposed genetic trait that one either has or doesn’t?

Carol: It may well be that inborn things, such as temperament, play a role in the mindset people develop. However, our research shows that environment can play a very strong role. For example, we have shown that when children are praised for their intelligence, they develop a fixed mindset along with the fear of mistakes that comes with that mindset. In contrast, when children are praised for the effort and strategies that went into their good performance, they develop a growth mindset and the love of learning that comes with it. We have also shown that the growth mindset can be directly taught – even to adults - and that when it is people take on more challenges and remain motivated and effective in the face of difficulty.



Praise the Effort. Not the Result.

"Hard work spotlights the character of people.
Some turn up their sleeves.
Some turn up their noses. Some don't turn up at all."
- Sam Ewing

In a study with students making the transition to junior high, we taught the students that the brain is like a muscle and gets stronger with learning.

Steve: I must be a growth mindset. I'm called muscle-head all the time.

Carol: - - - We also taught them that every time they apply themselves and learn something new, their brain forms new connections. Students taught this message showed better motivation and higher grades than their peers. Similar studies have been conducted with college students, with business school students, and with business managers. In each case, learning a growth mindset resulted in enhanced motivation and performance.



Fixed Mindset = Stagnant, Disconnected

Growth Mindset = Learns, Connects (in more ways than one)

"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it."
- Lou Holtz

Steve: Is there such a thing as too much growth mindset? Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla for example. I bring this up because your book cites Thomas Edison as a good growth mindset example. I struggle with Thomas Edison because of the huge differences between Edison and Nikola Tesla. Your book made me consider this issue from a different angle.

Wizardly Inventor

Tesla had a brilliant, wizardly-genius and unending growth mindset. Some might consider his drive and mindset pathological. But Tesla considered himself a “Planter of Seeds” for the betterment of humankind.

Inventive Genius - But With A Business Mindset

Edison created inventions and products that he could sell. That was his bottom line. Utility. Profitability. Business. He wasn’t about the betterment of mankind unless there was a buck in it. Tesla brought AC electricity to the world – but had to give away his royalties to Westinghouse and his investors to make it happen (worth billions of dollars) just so it could be made available to the masses. Edison would have never done that.

Thomas Edison is revered today - was rich and famous in his time. He's in the history books.

Tesla is almost forgotten but by a very few, not mentioned in the history books, died penniless, alone, in a hotel room in New York. His only friends at the end were the pigeons he fed and cared for.

Where does one such as Nikola Tesla and his mindset fit in our world?

Carol: The love of learning that comes with a growth mindset often has to be combined with some sense of practicality. For example, a student might love to learn, but may also need to get good grades to go on to a good college or graduate school. A young professor may love to do research but also has to publish that research to get promoted. A young worker may love exploration and learning, but may also need to do things to stay competitive and keep the job. Sometimes we have to earn the privilege of continuing to do what we love to do. So although learning is often the most important thing to a person in a growth mindset, it is not the only thing.



Earn the Privilege To Do What You Love To Do

It's a rare person who wants to hear
what he doesn't want to hear."
- Dick Cavett

This came through clearly in our study of pre-med students at Columbia taking their first organic chemistry course. These undergraduate students fervently wished to become doctors and, as we all know, needed good grades to do so. Students with a growth mindset put their greatest emphasis on learning in this course, but in the process of learning, they studied the material more deeply, managed their motivation better, and, in the end, earned higher grades than the students with a fixed mindset. In this case, they did not only immerse themselves in the joy of learning but used the learning process to master the material in a way that earned them high grades as well.

It’s a pity that the world is not pure and that the selfless contributors to society don’t always get the rewards they deserve. However, Tesla is not forgotten. The strength of MRI machines that are used so widely now to study the brain is expressed in Tesla units. Among other things, a monument to Tesla was recently established in Niagara Falls and a play about him (Brilliant! The Blinding Enlightenment of Nicola Tesla) has been produced and taken on tour.

Steve: Thank you, Carol.



Mindsets: Be Fixed On Growth

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
- Pierre de Coubertin


Nigel Holmes has a great graphic explanation of the differences between the "fixed" and "growth" mindsets. Check it out. And visit "Mindset" online if you want to learn how you can change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

About Carol S. Dweck:

Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., is one of the world's leading researchers in the field of motivation and is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on why people succeed and how to foster success. She has held professorships at Columbia and Harvard Universities, has lectured all over the world, and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her scholarly book Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development was named Book of the Year by the World Education Federation. Her work has been featured in such publications as The New Yorker, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe, and she has appeared on "Today" and "20/20."

Contact info:

E-mail: Ms. Carol Dweck
Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology, Stanford University
Bldg 01-420, Jordan Hall
Stanford, CA 94305-2130

About Steve Kayser:

Steve is an award-winning business writer who has been featured in a marketing best practices case study by MarketingSherpa, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing, Innovation Quarterly, B2B Marketing Trends, PRWEEK, The New Rules of PR and Marketing ( by David Meerman Scott) and Faces of E-Content magazine.

Steve's writings have appeared in Corporate Finance Magazine, CEO Refresher, Entrepreneur Magazine, Business 2.0, Ragan Report, Media Bullseye, and Fast Company Magazine, among others.

In his spare time, Steve professionally models kilts for
Un-Vanity, Non-GQ and The Manly Kilt Wearing Man monthly magazines.

Steve also headlines fundraising events for his run at an Olympic Gold
Medal in the commando kilt-wearing mechanical bull-riding competition to be held in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2050.

You can contact Steve by email at

Recent Articles:

The Best Kept Secret of Great Presentations

How to Defeat Your Inner Deadbeat

Loved and Lost on the Way to the Last Post - 2007

Can Thoughts Change Your Business, Your Life ... the World?

It's Complex to Write Simple These Days - But Hemingway's Rules of Writing Can Still Work

When Ode to Misery Beckons ... Find Your Ode to Joy

*From IDC 's "Expanding Digital Universe" research paper.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Animotorize - Help Banish Boring Business Presentations

This story, "Help Banish the Boring" was originally posted on 11/14/2007. Since then the guys at Animoto continue to make great strides... including this high-profile interview with the Fox Business Channel - "Bringing Photos to Life." Nice job guys. Hard work. Skills. Great attitudes. Sense of humor. It does pay off. Congratulations ... and keep it coming.

by Steve Kayser
Near-Death Experience
I was near death. Poisoned by an uber-ugly, overly long, boring PowerPoint presentation.

How Did This Come to Pass?
I had been asked to sit through another "no more than 20 minutes" business presentation. When it started, I discovered the presenter had 112 slides with an average of 9.97 bullet points per slide (do the math ... try not to go mad). Three hours later, slide 21 appeared.

Near Death But Nowhere Near Done
I was nearly bored to death but the presentation was nowhere near done. I tried to leave. But my get up and go had got up and went.

I know PowerPoint isn't to blame. It just facilitates overexposure to boring inanities, extreme vanities, useless information and words drained of meaning.

Wanted! Change!
Change is needed. Desperately. Something different. Please! Anything but the same old PowerPoint vomitoria. A nano-change ... even some baby steps would be welcome.

Have You Ever Noticed?
Most business presentations start off with an introduction to the company or service and it's always the same? "We've been around." "We're great!" "Our customers love us. Industry analysts love us!" "Everybody loves us!" "We're smart ... and you're stupid if you select anyone but us."

Have you also noticed during the start of most presentations that after the first or second slide, most people (peer around the room in your next meeting) look like this? Politely smiling ... but inside their heads "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"(as performed by AC/DC) is playing.

Banish the Boring
On a quest to banish the boring from business presentations, I ventured out to try to find a new way to spruce up; to make presentations more interesting.

Use at Your Indiscretion
Big surprise! I found one. At the end of this article we'll take a standard corporate gobbledygook presentation, rework it and throw a little video-creation "Wow" into it. In fact, it'll be an open-sourced corporate presentation that you can use and re-use anytime, at your indiscretion.

I found a web application called Animoto. This application automatically generates professionally produced videos using patent-pending technology and high-end motion design. Each video is a fully customized orchestration of user-selected images and music. Produced on a widescreen format, Animoto videos have the visual energy of a music video and the emotional impact of a movie trailer.

Short, 30-second videos, using 12 to 15 photos, are free, while $30 a year allows you to create as many long-version 60-second videos, with an unlimited number of photos. The creators of Animoto probably never envisioned their application being used in a business environment (I asked - they hadn't), but I saw it, tried it and liked it anyway.

Tries Something New
Animoto took me about five minutes (which equates to about 30 seconds for the normal person) to figure out. Easy to use. Easy to learn and understand.

I had a few questions, so I e-mailed the folks at Animoto. They responded almost instantly via email and instant message - even at 1:00 am. So, not only did I find a good, new tech application, better still I found polite, courteous and responsive folks that innately understand customer service. Especially noteworthy was Tom Clifton. His attention to detail, inquisitiveness and ability to figure out an inarticulately worded, undecipherable, obtuse question in seconds was nothing short of amazing.

Animoto has the potential of being a real icebreaker in business meetings. You may harrumph, perorate, harangue and bloviate - too goofy, too hip, too young, too in-your-face ... but at least it's not boring. And if you're still doing the traditional PowerPoint presentation, YOU ARE BORING.

Can You Open with an Opening?
Opening a meeting with a humorous or poignant look at an issue with a quick 30-to 60-second video will differentiate your presentation from about 99% of all other presentations at any given time. I'll give you a "briefy" (neologism for a "quick overview") on how to use Animoto, then include some examples.

Animoto Makes it 1-2-3 Easy
Step 1 - Upload your images.

Step 2 - Select your music. (I like their selection; a good mix of styles) ...

Step 3 - Then Animoto analyzes the images and music and creates a customized video.

The end- result is a 30-second or 60-second movie-like trailer.

Two Types of Edits
You can go back in and move images around any way you want, change the music, or do both.
Now here's the really cool part. They have a one-step remix process so you can essentially make 10, 20, 30 different versions of the same presentation. You just press the automated remix and a new version of your video is mixed. No two videos are ever the same. Not boring.

The heart of Animoto is its patent-pending, newly developed, Cinematic Artificial Intelligence technology that thinks like an actual director and editor. It analyzes and combines user-selected images and music with the same sophisticated post-production skills and techniques that are used in television and film.

I struggled with the ability to add and edit text. It's not there yet. But, I put on my thinking cap, filled it with the appropriate liquid nourishment, then solved the problem. Another issue - the full screen display works on my computer but was not particularly clear on a larger, full-screen overhead. I'll figure that out eventually too ... with a little more liquid nourishment.

What About the Company?
The founders of Animoto are veterans of the entertainment industry and have produced shows for MTV, Comedy Central, and ABC; studied music in London, and played in Indie rock bands in Seattle. They continue to innovate in the field of creative artificial intelligence. Wanting to find out a little bit more about the company and application, I got with Co-Founder and President of, Jason Hsiao.

Steve: What was the inspiration to create Animoto?

Jason: While working in the film and television industry, we found ourselves increasingly frustrated with the discrepancy between the quality of content on the web versus film and television. But it really doesn't take someone from the entertainment industry to notice the disparity. Part of the inspiration behind Animoto is to simply bridge this gap in quality and production-value, and to build something that helps people easily create and share video content that feels closer to something you'd expect to see in a film or on television.

Another motivation for developing Animoto was to develop a compelling alternative to photo slideshows, which, as we all know, can too often be dreadfully, painfully boring. No one wants to spend 15 minutes watching a 182-photo slideshow of their friend's trip to Maine.

Who has that kind of time? We set out to end the era of slideshows and take the experience of photo viewing to a whole new level.

The inspiration of Animoto also takes into account how people use cameras these days. With digital cameras increasingly accessible and having near unlimited storage, is very different from the days of film (or expensive storage). It's no longer about taking the perfect shot. These days, it's common for people to take dozens, if not hundreds of digital photographs at a single event. People are using their digital cameras much less like photographers of the past, who capture individual moments, and increasingly more like video producers and directors who capture an entire experience through a series of images.

Animoto makes it simple to convey experiences through a series of photographs by perfectly synchronizing the images to music. If we're doing out jobs right, the resulting Animoto video should perfectly meld the imagery and music to create a video that evokes the intended emotional response from its' creator and subsequent viewers.

Steve: What's your target market for Animoto?

Jason: While we originally sought to target teens and twenty-somethings who use social network sites, we've been pleased to find that appeals to a much larger audience. We feel our potential market includes anyone with access to digital photos. At last count, this included about 109 million global users of photo-sharing websites and at current growth rates, is projected to grow 150% to 272 million users by 2010. While we originally thought most of our usage would be U.S.-based, we've been pleasantly surprised by the strong adoption by international users in countries such as France, Italy and Japan. The fact that we haven't yet localized for these countries is a testament to the simplicity of our website design and the universal appeal of Animoto videos.

We've also been thrilled to discover that the possibilities for the Animoto video creation service are far greater than we first assumed. We've had hundreds of inbound inquiries from fans of Animoto who want to use the service in K-12 classrooms, on residential real-estate websites, on professional photographers' websites, on small-business-owners websites, and of course, on musician's and band's websites. From a business development perspective, we've had dozens of inbound inquiries from interested potential partners like video device manufactures, video game creators, and social network platform providers.

We are committed to staying focused on the teens and twenty-somethings market with, but with the release of our API we'll have the ability to enter several additional large markets where there's already a demand for Animoto. After creating a Facebook application, we're going to create an Animoto Pro service for the commercial use of Animoto videos and then consider options for Animoto wedding videos, Animoto reunion videos, Animoto baby videos, etc.

Steve: Have you thought about the potential in business presentations? Sprucing up boring PowerPoints?
Letting users ...

We have a business version of Animoto planned for 2008. But it will be more geared toward short video-like commercials ... not text information based material. We won't replace PPT. All I can say, is I'm actually more exciting about our business offering than I am with our current product.

Thanks Jason!

Takeaways and Example Videos

Animoto won't make you a good presenter.

It won't make you a good storyteller.

It won't replace slide shows or PowerPoint.

It won't generate leads.

It won't close the sale. But it might help you banish the boring from your presentations. It's a start.


Some REALLY Valuable Additional Uses

You can use it to suck up to the Boss's secretary. Alice Imfeld (, my boss's Chief Executive Secretary, makes the world go round. She gets things done when all hope is lost. She's the helping hand out of the quicksand, and on and on. Once, (a couple of weeks ago) when I realized I forgot to get her a birthday card, I was frantic. I quickly resulted to unplanned sophomoric cartoonializing that is a character flaw of the truly disorganized. I did the 1-2-3 step Animoto Boogie, and it morphed into the semblance of a well- thought-out personalized birthday card. I e-mailed it to her and waited for a digital pink slip to ping my e-mail inbox. But ... she loved it. It has now gone down in corporate history books as the day "Steve won over Alice."

See below.

A Great 60- Second Video Briefy on Animoto

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Is Writing a Tough Job? Depends on Your Perspective

You start writing your masterpiece






Then ...






Detailed Explanations






Your Newborn







So ...


A Writers Job is Tough

But Sometimes



On Your